One night after two British rock icons -- Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of the Who -- were feted by superstars and dignitaries at the Kennedy Center, a third one couldn't quite fill the 9:30 club. But if Kinks frontman Ray Davies lacks their level of recognition and renown, his performance Monday night proved that his songbook is as deep and thrilling as that of any of his contemporaries.
Davies ran through a string of Kinks classics -- "Dead End Street," "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" and "Sunny Afternoon," among others -- that were as bouncy, clever and effortlessly catchy as ever, even with just Davies and Bill Shanley performing on acoustic guitars.
The highlights ranged his catalogue, from an early slice of teen angst ("I'm Not Like Everybody Else") to the British Invasion staple "Well-Respected Man" to the more introspective "Working Man's Cafe," on which Davies returned to his career-long theme of pining for the subtleties of simpler times.
For the encore, opening act Locksley helped Davies charge through the early power-chord anthems "You Really Got Me" and "Till the End of the Day." So what if the songs were built on the same chords played in a slightly different order? Nearly 45 years later, they resonated just as strongly, while the concluding "Lola" was equally euphoric.
"I used to be in a band," Davies said earlier in the show, and quickly added: "I'm still in the band, I'm just waiting for the call to do another tour." Judging by Monday's show, that inevitable Kinks reunion will be more than worthy of the hype.
--David Malitz, Dec. 2008