Ray Davies Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Magnus Mills
Friday 14 March 1997 01:02

Ray Davies made his audience wait one and a half hours before finally allowing us to hear the opening riff from "You Really Got Me", played as it was meant to be, on an electric guitar. Not that anybody minded: we knew it would come in the end. Several times he teased us with those great chopping chords banged out on an acoustic guitar at the beginning of a completely different song, or in the middle of a story about the Kinks' original eight-watt amplifier. But Ray and his "band" (one musician, called Pete) remained strictly unplugged for the first 90 minutes of his show. Arriving on stage, carrying, for unknown reasons, a battered suitcase, Ray Davies launched straight into "Victoria", a song not about the great British railway station but about the great British queen. Who should never be confused, of course, with "straight" Kinks drummer Mick Avory. Poor Mick, Ray informed us with a lewd grin, unwittingly won the affections of Brian Epstein in those heady days of 1964.

Tonight it was Ray Davies the storyteller on stage. There were loads of stories, jammed in between songs, or told halfway through them. Stories about his early days growing up in Muswell Hill. Or about having dandruff rudely brushed off by John Lennon backstage all those years ago. Ray can do impressions, too, turning himself into a Beatle, or into a United States Immigration Officer, or into Troggs impresario Larry Page. He could probably do Harold Wilson if the story required it. The best impression, though, was of brother Dave Davies. For Dave talks, according to Ray, the same as he plays guitar: DANG DANG DANG dang DANG!

And here it came at last, the story of "how we recorded `You Really Got Me' ". How Dave had to wreck that eight-watt amplifier to create the unique Kinks sound. How Ray first wrote the song to sound like a Big Bill Broonzy slide guitar number. And what it was like to perform a Number One hit record at Streatham Ice Rink. And, at last, to round it off, Ray and his accomplice Pete played "You Really Got Me" nice and loud for us, before disappearing off-stage.

In the second half he gave us the hits. Not all of them, though: there wasn't time. He only had another 90 minutes. So we got "Days", "See My Friends" and "Lola", but not "Dedicated Follower of Fashion". We were happy all the same, by the end of the show all on our feet and cheering. Half the audience seemed to know Ray Davies from down the pub. He's that sort of bloke. You want to buy him a pint and thank him for writing "Waterloo Sunset". See his show if you can.

Ray Davies plays the QEH, London SE1 (0171-960 4242) tonight, 8pm

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