Ray Davies, Bloomsbury Theatre, London, from The Guardian, October 1, 2004

Bloomsbury Theatre, London

Robin Denselow
Friday October 1, 2004
The Guardian

Ray Davies could never be accused of cowardice. Shot in the leg when he chased after a mugger in New Orleans back in January, he has spent much of the year recovering from his injuries. But he makes only one oblique reference to the incident - "Sorry I got delayed" - when he finally appears at the Bloomsbury for the first of the shows originally scheduled for April. Forty years on from the release of the Kinks' first hit, You Really Got Me, he could have played safe with the music and left the audience happy with a greatest hits set. Instead, he mixes the old favourites with Kinks rarities and a batch of new songs from his forthcoming solo album. He may be 60, but at the Bloomsbury he shows both the enthusiasm of a newcomer and the easy charm of a veteran who knows that many of his songs are classics.

The opening is certainly brave. Pencil-thin and in excellent voice, Davies shows how his new band have progressed with a startlingly loud new rock ballad, boasting: "I'm not like everybody else." Then comes a flashback to the mid-70s with The Hard Way, a return to new material with the thoughtful After the Fall, and a real rarity with the "never performed" Yours Truly, Confused, NW10, combining two favourite themes, English life and change.

He performs songs from the 1968 album Village Green Preservation Society as an acoustic duo with guitarist Mark Johns, who also provides the impressive new "unplugged" backing for those glorious oldies, Celluloid Heroes and Dead End Street. Then come more intriguing new songs - the sad-edged and nostalgic Next Door Neighbour and theatrical and angry Stand-Up Comic - before the final blitz of Kinks hits.

Johns is unable to match the raw passion of Dave Davies with his slide guitar work on You Really Got Me, but Ray's treatments of Waterloo Sunset, Days and Lola are as memorable as ever. Welcome back.