The Kinks, House Of Blues, Los Angeles, from L.A. Village View, July 13, 1995The Kinks/The Wild Colonials
House of Blues
by Ray Greene
(Published in: L.A. Village View)
In the history of rock 'n' roll, there is quite possibly no band that has ever been as aptly named as that union of opposites called The Kinks. One of rock's most idiosyncratic and lyrically sophisticated groups thanks to the irony-laced ruminations of vocalist and principle songwriter Ray Davies, The Kinks are also among the most determined primativists the music has known -- a thinking person's ensemble that just happened to invent the power chord, and which remains among that primal rock implement's most dedicated practitioners.
Commercial failures during their mid-'60s musical prime, The Kinks had already created one of rock's most glorious back catalogues by 1970 -- a body of work including "You Really Got Me," "All Day and All of the Night," "Waterloo Sunset," "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" and "David Watts" which influenced everyone from The Who to The Jam to The Doors to Van Halen. That rich back catalogue was alive and well during The Kinks' recent triumphant three day stint at the House of Blues -- their first concerts in the U.S. since finding themselves, for the first time in three decades, without an American recording contract thanks to 1993's commercially disasterous album "Phobia." At House of Blues, The Kinks showed themselves to be not only surviving in exile but thriving -- that rare veteran act which manages to seem vital and immediate even when playing songs that predate the events depicted in "Apollo 13."
Scaled down somewhat from the days in the early '80s when they used to play hockey rinks, The Kinks nevertheless retain a certain larger than life persona onstage, thanks to Ray Davies' joyous and intentionally self-satirizing cabaret histrionics and to the virtuouso fretwork of half-brother Dave on lead guitar. But the true secret of The Kinks eternal youth comes from the fact that Ray Davies has one of the most distinctive songrwiting voices in all of rock, and not just on those songs which came from what is largely regarded as The Kinks "golden era."
Unlike most of their '60s counterparts, who sank from superstar bloat by the mid-1970s, The Kinks fit right into a punk era their own early records helped to inspire. They spent the late '70s and early '80s grinding out guitar-driven hits like "The Hard Way," "Low Budget," and "Sleepwalker" -- a lucrative "second wind" that has never been held in very high esteem by old-guard fans. Though incorporated into the act sparingly, latter-day Kinks tracks like "Low Budget," "Come Dancing" and "Scattered" held their own as expressions of a maturing vision directly derived from the gangly outsider of those acute early masterpieces. Regardless of vintage, every song was played with absolute commitment; even "Sleazy Town," a relatively undistinguished Kinks cut from 1987's "Think Visual" proved a tour de force in concert thanks to the Davies brothers' refusal to throw a single note away. Somebody sign these guys, quick!
Unfortunately, given the current state of the art, it's probably more likely that opening act The Wild Colonials will find themselves with a contract some time soon. More's the pity. The Colonials aren't bad, exactly. They're proficient, and "eclectic" in that post-Nirvana, alternative mega-band wannabee way. Their sound, such as it is, combines Mazzy Star with a Klesmer band and then adds Jean Luc Ponty-derived violin riffs where the oom-pah-pah accordion solos should be. They're a local buzz band right now, but then, so were Taz and L.A. Guns once upon a time.