Mick Avory - drums; John Dalton - bass; Dave Davies - guitar, vocals; Ray Davies - vocals, guitar; John Gosling - piano, organ; Pamela Travis - backing vocals; Claire Hamill - backing vocals; Mike Cotton Sound - horn section
Pete Townshend wasn't the only songwriter in Swingin' London to find that his lofty ideas couldn't be properly expressed within the confines of a three-minute pop song; across town in Muswell Hill, Ray Davies was busy plotting an entire career devoted to albums about the rise and fall of the British Empire.
By appearances one of the more polite bands to emerge from England, The Kinks still managed to get themselves banned from performing on U.S. soil for most of the '60s, while the likes of The Who and the Stones were left to freely devastate dressing rooms, cars and hotel television sets from sea to shining sea. Though commercially crippling, this exile helped Ray foster a unique appreciation for his homeland, which he illustrated on increasingly daring and strange albums, beginning with The Village Green Preservation Society and continuing through a series of concept albums in the early '70s. It was an uneasy journey from the traditional rock 'n' roll storytelling of the former to the confusingly elaborate music hall operas of the latter, and one that would even find the author, one night along the way, attempting to retire from music completely in front of several thousand people during a performance at London's White City, shortly before being rushed to the hospital.
Ray Davies seems well composed, however, during this appearance at the Hippodrome following the release of Preservation: Act 2, the second part of one of his impossibly ambitious and ultimately doomed rock operas. Mercifully, Ray doesn't try too hard to explain the context of the songs in relation to the larger story they represent; like all great artists, he lets the work speak for itself. The set is comprised of several songs from the Preservation opera, as well a handful of more well-received classics, like "Victoria" and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion."
Some artists are victims of their own creativity; each work grows more complex in concept and execution until their burden is more than any one man can bear. Ray Davies is such an artist, and while he has suffered for his art (sometimes quite publicly), he also managed to create one of the most astonishingly original and literate bodies of work in all of popular music.