The Kinks At the Academy: Frustration, Fulfillment All Their Greatest Plates
"Getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has not effected us," proudly proclaimed Kinks leader Ray Davies. "Now we are more disorganized than ever. Let's hear it for imperfection!" Longtime Kinks fans knew exactly what he meant, while the new converts quickly learned that the Kinks didn't become one of the most fanatically adored bands ever simply by having a bunch of hits. It also too a lot of misses. Just look at how in any given ten-minute span, on disc or on stage, the Kinks can go from being one of the greats to a shapeless, aimless, pseudo-metal mess...and back. But they always come back. While few achieve the success the Kinks have, even fewer achieve that success, see it slip away, then regain it. At the Academy on May 13th, their first NYC-area show since becoming Hall of Famers over three years ago, nothing has changed.
The houselights came down, and the audio prelude that has preceded Kinks shows for over a decade played. But when the lights came up, gracing the Academy's stage were not only the Kinks (playing "Around the Dial"), but also a proliferation of paper plates. After inspired versions of "Destroyer" and "Low Budget," Davies said "tonight we'll just play the plates" and proceeded to read many a Kink gem off the plates. What a request system! And it worked!
The band delved deep into their treasure chest (and the plates afoot) for a mini-set that reminded all present that theirs was a canon of songs as good as anybody's. This mini-set included, among others, "Waterloo Sunset," "Sunny Afternoon," "Apeman," "Celluloid Heroes," "Misfits," and an acapella "Harry Rag."
This miniset was also a reminder of how peerless a performer Davies is. His English vaudeville meets out of control rock star shtick peaked when he balanced a beer bottle on his head while singing about that demon "Alcohol."
Naturally, the Kinks followed this great stretch with a perfunctory slam-bang presentation of new pseudo-metal offerings from their latest Phobia album. But just as the crowd were about to write off the night, if not the band, as pure nostalgia, the ace of their set, which was not from '63, '73' or even '83, but from, you got it, '93!
This ace was a song Ray dedicated to his brother, Kinks lead guitarist and founder, Dave Davies. It was a lovely little ditty from Phobia called "Hatred (a Duet)". Said song pitted brother against brother at center stage singing, or rather screaming, epithets of disgust that only loved ones can inspire. The audience was in a frenzy. The Kinks rode into their "Lola/You Really Got Me" finale.
Ah, the more things change the more they stay the same. Let's hear it for imperfection indeed!
Alvin Eng, The Island Ear.