Never mind the kold

Dave Woodhall braves the elements to witness some rare quality.

Kast off KinksLet it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Sammy Cahn’s winter anthem might be fine at Christmas but for a concert promoter the white stuff falling all around is about as bad as it can get. It certainly reduced the audience numbers at the Robin on Sunday night, when the Kast Off Kinks made a welcome return to perform the music Ray Davies wrote and they (well, three-quarters of them) recorded, performed and which helped influence so much of what’s subsequently happened. In the circumstances you might have expected a perfunctory run through the back catalogue then off before the weather got worse. You’d have been wrong. These guys are veterans, they’ve faced grimmer situations than this and would never dream of giving less than their best. In fact, it was probably a reminder of their old days, when the unknown band would travel to an unfamiliar town and have to win over a sparse crowd.

Of course, they didn’t have to win over an audience who were on the band’s side from the off, as they strolled on stage, introduced themselves and struck up Where Have All the Good Times Gone? Village Green Preservation Society is an even greater testament to times past now than when it was written in 1968, the original of David Watts a vastly under-rated belting rocker and Sunny Afternoon magnificently inappropriate in the circumstances.

Most of the songs come complete with an introduction telling the story of how they were written or some other anecdote of those halcyon times. As bassist Jim Rodford said before Dead End Street – “This only got to number eight.” It is, as they all were, performed with aplomb, and also with some nice piano work from Ian Gibbon, who also chipped in with his share of vocal duties throughout. Lola finished off the first half of the set, a song written, as every Kinks fan will know, in a couple of hours while drummer Mick Avory, in his own words, “got pissed and played snooker.”

The band have sometimes been mistaken for that most bastardised of musical terms, a tribute act. In a way that’s what their show is – a tribute to the genius of a man whose songwriting ability has few equals over the past fifty years. And on a night like this, you can do worse than sit back and listen to the quality of such a rich back catalogue – everything they play would be good enough for any other band’s encore. Mick Avory, drummer from the start until almost the end, steps forward to deliver Dedicated Follower of Fashion in a deadpan style that suits the song perfectly. “Why do I sing this one when I dress like this? Because Ray didn’t write a song called You Scruffy Bastard.”

This song, which depicted the Swinging Sixties better than any other, is followed by Waterloo Sunset, arguably the finest lyrics ever written. The set ends with You Really Got Me, an appropriately blistering version of the riff that changed the world. The sort-of encore (both band and audience are beyond the leave-the-stage-and-back-on-again nonsense) is the predictable All Day and All of the Night. It’s up to the standard of the rest and you can’t say any better than that. Anyone who stayed away missed a rare treat.

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