Dave Davies leaps through a haze of dry ice like the ghost of Jacob Marley, a dapper Dickensian with his long hair swept back, frock jacket and polka dot silk scarf. His vocals, already fragile after a stroke a decade ago, are shot to pieces by flu and almost drowned out by guitar fuzz.
The predictable run of Kinks hits – All Day And All Of The Night, Tired Of Waiting, and a welcome She’s Got Everything are cheery but suffer accordingly. At times, to paraphrase Morecambe and Wise, he’s singing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
In the solo Kink’s favour, his selection of songs and the balance of the set - between electric and acoustic, old chestnuts and less familiar newer material - is well judged. He’s supremely affable and has the perennial bad boy’s peculiar knack of winning warmth and adoration, even when he’s fluffing the opening bars of a song. Death of A Clown and Where Have All The Good Times Gone are so apt and poignant it almost breaks your heart. He elicits the help of the audience again for the swooping psychedelia of Creeping Jean (“If you know this one, you gotta help me sing it” – sadly it turns out most of them don’t.)
He finishes with what he says is one of his favourite Kinks songs, I’m Not Like Everybody Else. A curious choice, given it’s virtually Ray’s signature tune. But talk of a reunion has become tedious and even the most patient fans are beyond tired of waiting.
Then there’s a flurry in the wings and Dave announces, “We’ve got a surprise.” After an agonising few seconds, Ray Davies strolls on, nonchalant as you like, in overcoat and flat cap and clutching a bottle of water, as if he was just walking by on Upper Street and decided to look in on the off-chance. Muffled by screams of delight and shock from the fans, he delivers a Christmas message to his brother: “The candle’s on the Christmas tree, your gift is wrapped under the Christmas tree, but unfortunately you’re banned from the house.”
Then, for the first time in almost 20 years, Ray and Dave Davies are playing You Really Got Me, maybe even with all the right notes in all the right order. And if they weren’t, who cares? Deep, deep joy.