Show ‘had its moments’
The Kinks were one of the big names of the Swinging Sixties but this musical biography of the group does them no favours.
In the Merseybeat area, I managed beat groups in Liverpool and know exactly the sort of problems that were rife in those days and it was just the same in Muswell Hill where The Kinks originated.
What we get is personality clashes within the group, fighting on stage, wrecked hotels, crooked agents and promoters and, ultimately, expulsion from their American tour.
The one thing that saves them from disintegration is the poetic compositions of lead singer, Ray Davies (or Sir Ray Davies as he is now) whose songs are microcosms of English life, reminiscent almost of music hall days, and Ryan O’Donnell made an admirable fit for the role, demonstrating his quiet, philosophical nature.
Less so Mark Newnham, as madcap brother, Dave (‘the Rave), whose fractious relationship with his brother made him the foil to Ray’s quiet artistry. There were also occasional hints of his bisexuality, and his speaking voice reminded me of Dudley Moore in his Pete and Dud sketches, but his guitar playing was outstanding and his acrobatics in the hotel foyer scene, where he swung like Johnny Weissmuller from the chandeliers, was one of the highlights of the show.
With Andrew Gallow playing drummer Mick Avory, who drew a round of applause for his long drum solo, and Garmon Rhys as bass player, Pete Quaife, the group onstage gave a commendable impersonation of the original band.
Strangely for a musical though, the worst part of the production was the sound. ‘’You Really Got Me’ and the next two singles thundered round the theatre with a satisfyingly deafening roar but the dialogue came out so quiet and muffled that half of it was totally incomprehensible in the vast reaches of the Empire Theatre. And, in many cases, the dialogue took away the impact from the songs as each number seemed to require an interminable explanation.
It wasn’t until the encore, when the audience rose as one to ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and ‘Lola’, that you really felt that at last you were at a live concert. But why were ‘Come Dancing’ and ‘Death of a Clown’ missing from the repertoire?
One thing that did stand out though is how amateurish the music scene was in those days compared with the professionalism of later groups like One Direction. How times have changed.
STAR RATING: 5 out of 10. Had its moments but could have been so much better.