Kinsale, on a warm summer's evening, is simply breathtaking. The harbour full of boats, the water glistening in the sun, the narrow streets happy with casually strolling tourists - it's the way all seaside towns are meant to be but so rarely are.
I arrived early, expecting quite a crowd. After all, we were about to experience a living legend (a phrase not to be used lightly, but one that is surely apt in this case) up close and personal. The show was limited to four hundred. Initially, Ray Davies had requested no publicity, but when the tickets weren't shifting the organisers had to leak word of the show, and then, of course, it was a double-quick sellout. People were advised to come early, etc. etc. But this is Cork, where nothing ever happens in too much of a hurry, and by seven there was just me and a lovely girl from Muswell Hill named Jane, a real dedicated follower of Kinky fashion, having attended more than a hundred of Ray's shows. Still, no crowd meant a prime spot, front and centre, about two and a half inches from the stage...
Ray, accompanied by Cork-born guitarist Bill Shanley, arrived to great cheering about ten minutes after the scheduled nine o'clock starting time, looking casual cool in a grey sports jacket and faded jeans. What followed was a tight and sweaty ninety minute set, fully, I suppose, of the usual suspects. By that time, the place was packed, and the bar was doing a roaring trade. At the front, we found ourselves standing alongside Ray's daughter - the whole reason for this night - and it was wonderful to see Ray direct so many lines at her.
He was quite talkative during the show, and seemed in good humour, though the night was not without its difficulties, and the noise of people chatting at the bar did tend to intrude on the music. Ray took it all with smiles, though. He spoke about Kinsale, where he has a house, about the people and the surrounding area. He spoke a little about the place being the inspiration behind 'One More Time', and he dedicated 'I'm Not Like Everybody Else' to the head of his daughter's school, expressing his admiration for the way she refused to take no for an answer in getting the gig arranged and organised. One amusing moment, early on, was when someone, already souped up on porter, shouted out 'Waterloo' as a request, and Ray offered up a very mocking snippet of the Abba song!
Recognising that he had something of a battle on his hands, he tried his best to turn most of the songs into singalongs. Some, as you can imagine, worked better than others. Particularly well received were 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion' (which he introduced as an English Folk song but with the twist of a long Irish instrumental intro, courtesy of Bill Shanley), 'Sunny Afternoon', 'Tired Of Waiting', and 'Set Me Free', which the crowd kicked into before Ray did, much to his obvious delight. Actually, that's the sort of night it was... With the noise from the bar swamping the quieter songs, I suppose he knew he had to keep it loud. 'Let's try to raise the roof,' he said, and that, more or less, was what he did.
As he was leaving the stage, I was close enough to hold out a copy of X-Ray for him to sign, and I was also able to present him with a copy of my new book, 'In Too Deep' (which - hint, hint - available from amazon, if anyone who reads this happens to be curious enough to want to buy it.. just search under Billy O'Callaghan and it should pop right up...).
Ten minutes of cheering followed his departure, the crowd seemingly certain that he'd return for a few more, but to no avail. So, we got no 'Waterloo Sunset', no 'Days', no 'You Really Got Me'. But then, Ray could probably have played another full show and still not satisfied all the requests (personally, I had been hoping for 'Don't Forget To Dance'...). What we did get was a full blown 90 minutes of wonderful music, and Ballinadee school made somewhere in the region of sixteen thousand euros for their building project, not counting what they brought in with raffle ticket sales (the five prizes were signed copies of the new choral album, which alas I didn't win).
Great music, nice people, a lovely town. On the whole, that is pretty close to the perfect recipe for creating a truly enjoyable night.
In case you are wondering, some of the songs performed (and in no particular order, my memory not being what it should be) were:
I Need You
Where Have All The Good Times Gone
I'm Not Like Everybody Else
Dedicated Follower Of Fashion
All Day And All Of The Night
Celluloid Heroes (truncated version)
Dead End Street
One More Time
Set Me Free
Tired Of Waiting For You
20th Century Man
My sister, who is seventeen and was seeing Ray for the first time, took a few pictures at the show. I'll post these as soon as she works out how to upload them to this blog!