The Kinks are not about to join those tired, sad packaged tours of aging rock stars from the '60s who recycle their hits for nostalgic baby boomers. No, the Kinks' present is still as interesting as their past, and last night at Merriweather Post Pavilion, they played with a spontaneity and energy that would put many so-called new-wave bands to shame. The motor behind this band, of course, was singer-songwriter Ray Davies, who made up the show as he went along, calling out the oddest tunes to the band and then interrupting the songs with broadly delivered vaudeville routines.
For example, when he sang "Low Budget," an ode to the Thatcher recession, he mimed the problems caused by buying shoes and pants that don't quite fit. When he pulled out the obscure song "Art Lover," the ballad of a dirty old man, he gave it a properly perverse introduction. He did "Muswell Hillbillies" in a stomping honky-tonk arrangement and then segued into "A Well Respected Man" in the same style. Of the newest songs, the pub sing-along "Working at the Factory" and the bluesy "Sleazy Town" sounded like keepers for future tours. In contrast to the inspired spontaneity of most of the show, several songs were presented with a premeditated concept -- complete with mediocre modern dancers -- and fell flat as a result.
Steve Jones' opening set displayed none of the originality or directness of his old band, the Sex Pistols. Instead, Jones droned on like a late comer to Britain's gloom-and-doom sweepstakes, while his quartet bashed about like a Midwest bar band that still hasn't heard Steppenwolf is now an oldies act.