So we’re sitting in the food hall eating overpriced cakes and sandwiches when Robyn Hitchcock comes in, instantly recognisable by the white hair and colourful shirt. Nice to see they make him buy his own dinner. Naturally don’t bother to speak to him although ‘Heaven’ is one of my favourite songs (hence this gratuitous link) and I would have loved to ask if Ray has been around backstage at all. Then – they have these long tables like a school dining hall – we were descended on by the musicians who would later be playing – so do we acknowledge that we know who they are? Of course not. We pointedly ignore them.
I must admit that I hate the idea of See My Friends though. Why would I want to hear anyone other than Dave sing with Ray? Paloma Faith’s version of ‘Lola’ is horrid, no inflection in her tone; Metallica turn the emotion in ‘You Really Got Me’ into rage, reducing it to something far inferior; Mumford and Sons don’t destroy ‘Days’ and ‘This Time Tomorrow’ but neither do they add anything in particular; to me, it’s as if all the songs are being stripped of what made them special. Anyway, I'll hold my tongue for the moment.
The concert starts and is actually pretty good fun. There’s an obvious camaraderie between the musicians and everyone is very appreciative of each other and of the audience although the second track, ‘Kizza Me’ is so raucous, it nearly frightens us away.
The hall is a manageable size and even in Row P, we’re not too far from the action, the only problem being that the conductor blocks the vocalists.
‘Holocaust’ (chilling and affecting; you can hear ice in the instrumentation, the little boat must have reached the Arctic); everything the Posies guys do, always had a soft spot for them since they sent me a copy of the lyrics of ‘Grant Hart’ so that I could show them to Grant – he was duly pleased.
There’s an ebb and flow throughout, with each artist bringing something different to the mix.
First half setlist
Nature Boy – John Bramwell
Kizza Me – Mitch Easter
O Dana – Ira Kaplan
For You – Jody Stephens
Nighttime – Alexis Taylor
Jesus Christ – Mike Mills
Big Black Car – Jon Auer
Take Care – Ira Kaplan
Stroke It, Noel – Norman Blake
Femme Fatale – Sondre Lerche
Downs – Robyn Hitchcock
Dream Lover – Sharon Van Etten
Blue Moon – Jody Stephens
Holocaust – Django Haskins
You Can’t Have Me – Sharon Van Etten
Kanga Roo – Brett Harris
Thank You, Friends – Various
The names are simply who sings the lead. My typing’s too slow for me to list all the musicians.
I enjoy the second half better though. This is like a mini Big Star hit parade so we get ‘Thirteen’ – I think I would have felt cheated if they hadn’t played this. Great vocals from Skylar Gudasz. Mike Mills rocks out a rendition of ‘September Gurls’; his voice is perfect for it. Shamefully, many of the songs are new to me
Second half setlist
I’m in Love with a Girl
Give Me Another Chance
I Am the Cosmos
There Was a Light
You and Your Sister
The EMI Song
The Ballad of El Goodo
Apologies if I got any of these titles wrong. Couldn’t take down names of who sung which in the dark. Will accept corrections/additions.
'Patience'. Somehow this return to triumph gave us all a sense of vindication on their behalf after their years languishing in the chip shop wilderness (some selling, some buying) watching Robbie's career perpetually in the ascendant. Did they ever dare think 'Our day will come'? Anyway, there was some validation for the Kinks as one of their songs was mentioned in the Archbishop of Canterbury's address, proof of entry to the pantheon.
With Ray Davies:
I don't know how Ray fits so much into his schedule (he really is a workaholic) but I like the fact that he finds time for this. It doesn’t really matter why he chooses to take part, whether to reinforce the respect (and adulation) of his peers, out of a general need for recognition and admiration, out of respect for Alex Chilton and Big Star, out of pure altruism, out of a desire to be perceived as purely altruistic, the all-round good guy next-door. It’s the ‘taking part’ that counts although of course Ray also wins in this instance, always important for him.
Back of a Car
All in all, a great spirit of togetherness and celebration among the musicians and a heartfelt appreciation of Big Star’s oeuvre, conveyed to the crowd on waves of their own enthusiasm and love, inspiring those of us relatively unfamiliar with the songs to investigate further.
Next stop: Bob Mould, Come Dancing, Citizen Cope.