Songwriter, bandleader, social critic, poet, and humorist all apply to The Kinks front man Ray Davies. Unlike other British Invasion-era bandleaders, he didn't seem comfortable as a front man. He wasn't cute like the guys in The Beatles or cocky like Jagger from the Stones. The band's sound was also different. Much less rooted in American music, The Kinks had a more overtly English sound. Davies often sang in a shy, insecure voice over some of the wildest and rawest music anybody had ever heard. Davies' songwriting rapidly developed and soon enough his anthems of unrequited love transformed into beautiful pop songs teaming with vivid imagery. Unfortunately, during those key years of 1965 through 1969, The Kinks were not permitted to enter the United States. Do to a union dispute that caused this sad state of affairs, The Kinks never got the American exposure so critical to commercial success at that time. This prevented the group from the attention they so richly deserved.
Regardless, The Kinks were crafting some of the most beautiful rock songs ever recorded during these years, many featuring melodies that were as impressive as anything being recorded at the time. Just as the American banishment was lifted, the band hit big with the sexually ambiguous "Lola" and an album that attacked the music industry and record companies at a time when the Punk generation was still in diapers. The Kinks entered the 1970s with the loose, drunken approach adopted by many groups of the era, but unlike contemporaries like the Faces, Davies lyrics often revealed a more mature confusion and sadness amidst his hedonistic fun. In 1972, The Kink's released the double album Everybody's in Show-Biz, consisting of half studio tracks and half live recordings. The studio recordings were thematically focused on an Englishmen's adventures on the American road, while the live portion featured The Kinks, augmented by a horn section, enjoying themselves onstage, a real-time representation of the life described in the studio recordings.
The band, with the horn section in tow, returned to America in the latter part of 1972 to promote the album. This concert, recorded at the Felt Forum in New York City captures The Kinks in loose, but fine form, with Davies joking with the audience in a stage persona that is both satirical and highly entertaining. In addition to several classic hits, this performance features a wealth of material from Everybody's In Show-biz, that clearly showcase Ray Davies' weariness, cynicism and humor about life as a rock 'n' roll star.
This performance, one of the last of the American tour, is also one of the most spontaneous. The repertoire is consistent with other nights of the tour, but the structure of the set is looser, featuring songs often reserved for the end of the show performed early on, as well as several surprises.
The set kicks off with a loose jam featuring Ray on harmonica, which transforms into a captivating take on "Victoria." Ray then leads the way into a campy version of "Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner" just for fun. "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues" is an engaging romp down the path to self-destruction, featuring outstanding piano work from John Gosling and the horn section adding a celebratory New Orleans flavor to the proceedings. The pounding road-rocker, "Here Comes Yet Another Day" is up next, followed by a rip-roaring take on "Till The End Of The Day."
By this point, the audience is thoroughly engaged, so The Kinks take the opportunity to stretch out a bit. "You're Looking Fine" is performed here as a medley containing the classic 1950s hits, "Little Queenie," "I'm A Hog For You Baby," "Shakin' All Over" and "Whole Lotta Shakin." Raw and loose, one can tell the group is thoroughly enjoying themselves. During "Shakin' All Over," Dave's savage guitar riffing recalls The Who's legendary Live At Leeds version of the song. Beginning with just drums and Ray's vocal, "Lola" begins loose but soon develops an infectious groove, with the audience singing right along.
One of the surprises is next with the 1968 song, "Picture Book," rarely performed during this era. Despite it being a nostalgic song about reminiscing while looking through photo albums, this is uncharacteristically upbeat. "Celluloid Heroes," Ray's bittersweet rumination on dead Hollywood screen icons, vividly displays his melancholic longing for a simpler time. His vocal is particular touching on this number as he wishes his life were like a movie, "Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain / And celluloid heroes never really die." Another unusual inclusion follows with "Harry Rag," a pub song with military drumming; the title based on Newcastle slang for cigarettes. This is followed by another classic Kinks hit, "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion."
The most outrageous sequence of the show is next with a monumental version of "Alcohol." Nearly 12 minutes long, this features an extended spontaneous monologue from Ray and is highly theatrical. Complete with "Phantom Of The Opera" organ accompaniment, Ray's monologue features many moments of hilarity as he engages all the sinners in the audience with his socio-political commentary, before launching into this barrelhouse rocker, complete with New Orleans style horn arrangements.
They conclude the new material with another powerful rocker, "Skin And Bone," increasing the tempo, volume, and power of the original. The set concludes with one of the first songs the group ever played, a rocking cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly," leaving the New York City audience demanding an encore. The Kinks oblige with a raw double dose of the group's earliest hits "You Really Got Me" and "All Day And All Of The Night."