I love to live so pleasantly ~ Sunny Afternoon at the Liverpool Empire

Friday, February 10, 2017

I've been lucky enough to attend two pretty fabulous events this week.

Yesterday, Antony and I had a nice, late morning fry-up of turkey rashers, mushrooms and apple sausages, then got dressed up and hopped in a cab, where the friendly driver spoke to me of watching a certain '66 World Cup game, and how 'Sunny Afternoon' by The Kinks played immediately after the winning score, summing up the day and the mood perfectly.
Of course, he'd mentioned it because I'd asked him to take us to the Empire theatre as we were seeing Sunny Afternoon, but I had no idea that story, or one very similar, would end up playing out in the show itself.

Sunny Afternoon is the story of how The Kinks came to success, from a poor, 'strictly second class' background in Muswell Hill, all the way up to the top of the charts. Penned by Ray Davies himself, the show is a clear labour of love, and it shows in the biting humour between the two brothers Ray and Dave, the shy guitarist Pete, and the somewhat grumpy drummer, Mick.
Ray's own love story with his first wife, Rasa, is told beautifully too, and all the while to a backdrop of, of course, familiar Kinks hits.

The show is mostly a biography, with the songs expertly woven into the story - 'Dead End Street' shows us a bit of Ray and Dave's humble beginnings at home, and how important their family was to them, 'Tired of Waiting For You' is ever-so-briefly included, to show Rasa's frustration at Ray being so wrapped up in his work, and the show's 'Days' is a bittersweet version sung a capella, when their old friends and first managers finally move on.

Of course, it is also in part a concert, in which we see 'Set Me Free', 'You Really Got Me' and 'All Day and All of the Night' played out as they might have been originally in the 60s. The real life on-stage bust up between Dave and Mick is our outro to the interval ("Tour America with this lot? You'd have to be a madman!"), and the story ends with the coming together of one of the band's most beloved hits (I won't tell you which one, but it's one that invokes a feeling of home...particularly, if, like the band, you live in London. As a hint.).

Of course, it doesn't stop there, there's an encore, because of course there's an encore, which answers the question of when the heck their beloved 'Lola' was coming into it.

A highlight of the show for both Antony and myself was the character (is it fair to call him a 'character'? Yeah! Let's go with that) of Dave Davies. Hilarious, rebellious and the original Little Shit(tm), Dave provided most of the show's comedy relief.

"You call that assault?" he goads, at one point, to a cocky American who is trying to get away with even more money from the band after Ray harmlessly pushes him away, "This is assault!" cue said cocky American being nutted in the face by an even cockier Cockney.

During his own showstopper, 'Till The End of The Day', Dave performs wearing a silky ladies' dress, knocking back booze and swinging from a chandelier.

Not to be outdone, we also have drummer Mick Avory expressing his frustration at the silly green suits (I thought they were quite cute, but that's me!) their managers had them wear at the beginning, and the choice of the name 'Kinks' - "it's dark, it's sexy, girls will love it!" to which Mick responds, "you might as well just call us 'The Perverts'."

The humour and warmth is what made Sunny Afternoon such an enjoyable and lovable show, with some genuinely heartwarming moments. It had me hooked from the beginning, and the audience was clearly loving it too, with loads of laughs and thunderous applause at the encore - which really did feel as close to seeing The Kinks at their height in the sixties as it ever could be.

I've seen a lot of shows at the Empire, thanks to my lovely brother Chris, who has worked there for, well, a long time now, but I can honestly say that this was one of the best. I loved The Kinks anyway, but seeing how it all was for them and where they came from just made me love them even more.

And, while Ray Davies is definitely one of my inspirations and a similar thinker, Dave Davies has got to be my shoulder devil.

We even dress alike!

If you have a chance, definitely go and see Sunny Afternoon. It is worth every minute.

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