Review: Nostalgia is never enough

Ray Davies, The Storyteller; Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

It is probably to do with a concert he cancelled at the Southport Floral Hall in the early 70s, when I was still sufficiently in awe of heroes from the previous decade to be devastated by his non-appearance, but the post-Kinks Ray Davies has always been something of a disappointment. And sad to say, The Storyteller continues that tradition.

Originating as a promo for his book X-Ray ("a strange and unauthorised autobiography", as he tells us, twice), the show - part readings, part songs (with the assistance of guitarist Peter Matheson) - goes up to the recording of the first hit, "You Really Got Me", and is laced with quintessential Davies themes - class and Englishness. But the whole never quite gels enough to inspire.

It was clear at the beginning that, consummate rock performer though Davies is, he has not quite got the measure of the audience in this format. "Pinball Wizard!" someone shouted as he strapped on his guitar. Not a bad little joke about getting his 60s pop icons mixed up, but Davies asked sourly, "Have we got the retards in?" What the heckle deserved was an inclusive joke, not a put-down.

The structure provides a handy way round the "they only want to hear the oldies" dilemma - telling the story of at least part of his life means that he has to play the hits; it would be odd not to. So songs like "Victoria" and "Dead End Street" were covered well, while "See My Friends", some of it rendered partly in the minor key, became a powerful lament for his sister, who died young. But the quality of the newer, explicitly autobiographical material suffered by comparison. His way with words seems to have vanished, leaving in its place the clunking syntax of inferior 60s protest songs, the overstuffed lines of the local English teacher who's always fancied himself as a bit of a songwriter. The list of names in "London Song", for example, which is probably supposed to sound comparable to the likes of REM's "The End of the world as we know it", sounded instead like a drunken rocker falling down the stairs.

The narrative element never quite hits the spot either. Though Davies' account of north London working class life after the war is diverting, it's never richly layered enough to be anything more than that. Davies is no Muswell Hill Steven Berkoff. And while his songs, which pinned down the essence of the 1960s better than most, were given terrifically muscular readings, nostalgia was the emotion most powerfully evoked by "The Storyteller" - which isn't really enough.

When it came to the account of "You Really Got Me", the climax of the show, the disparity between past and present became most painful. Davies gave an account of how his brother, Dave, "played himself into rock and roll history" as he spat out that immortal raspberry of a guitar solo, and it was inevitably an anticlimax when Ray Davies and Matheson went into a 12-bar blues version, which was gutsy enough but without the adrenaline edge. It needed that big noise, yet to play it on tape over the PA would have been an admission of faded powers. Which, in a way, would have been a suitable judgement on the evening.

Chris Maume

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne celebrates after salvaging a point with the Southampton equaliser
footballAston Villa vs Southampton report
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
Out and about: for 'Glee' character Bert Hummel, having a gay son was a learning curve
lifeEven 'cool' parents need help parenting gay teens
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

    £30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

    Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

    Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

    Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    Day In a Page

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible