Of all the music provided at the opening and closing ceremonies at this summer's London Olympics, it was arguably Ray Davies who captured the jubilant mood best with a quite sublime rendition of 'Waterloo Sunset'.
The Kinks frontman is rightly regarded as one of the most significant British songwriters who came of age in the Swinging Sixties, and tonight he peppers his conversations with anecdotes from that halcyon era.
Davies talks a lot -- too much actually. He thinks nothing of interrupting one of his songs mid-flow to encourage the audience to sing the chorus or clap along. It's a frustrating shtick that tarnishes this gig right from the start.
The classic 'Sunny Afternoon' is a case in point. The song starts promisingly enough but soon stutters as Davies engages in banter with the crowd. 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion' is re-imagined as a folk song and for reasons only Davies knows, he does a Johnny Cash impersonation halfway through the song. Once more, it's got that stop-start feel that infects so many of the songs aired in the far-from-full O2.
Not only is the seating reduced significantly, but there are banks of empty rows on both sides. For the first half hour, it's just Davies and guitarist Corkman Bill Shanley alone on stage together. Only the quite recent 'In A Moment' truly hits home, although there's an engagingly plaintive feel to one of his earliest compositions, 'See My Friends', which he dedicates to deceased musician friends John Martyn and Davey Graham.
Proceedings pick up with the arrival of his full band, although the frailties of the 68-year-old's vocals are thrown into sharp relief on a patchy version of 'Victoria'.
Even his band sound jaded here and there. In the leaden chorus of 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?' they sound like a reasonably accomplished wedding band.
Happily, 'Waterloo Sunset' is captured sweetly -- the song's beauty surviving a hammy and needless reprise. 'Lola' also retains some of its original power, although Davies does his best to dampen expectations by prefacing his rendition with a flippant "I'll get this over with 'cause you all want to hear it".
Late on, wonderfully raucous takes on 'You Really Got Me' and 'All Day and All of the Night', help ease the disappointment of the bulk of what's gone before, but the night's highlight is provided by 'A Long Way From
Home', which Davies reminds us was written about his brother and former
bandmate, Dave, with whom he has had a notoriously fraught relationship.