It’s so charmingly like The Kinks to release a live album after Christmas, thus minimizing whatever revenues such an obvious stocking stuffer would normally produce. Live: The Road is representative of the band’s latest concerts; it’s less predictable and more textured than the tiresome arena-rock performances of the early-Eighties Kinks.
Some of the songs are undeniable winners — “Art Lover,” “Come Dancing,” “Apeman,” “Living on a Thin Line” and the unjustly overlooked “Lost and Found” — and hearing them in these crackling live versions is like running into old friends. Less welcome are “Give the People What They Want,” “Think Visual” and “Around the Dial,” which are energetic but still pedestrian by Ray Davies’s standards.
Live: The Road wisely emphasizes recent material and contains two brandnew songs: “It,” which suggests a possible return to the Kinks’ mid-Seventies theatrics, and “The Road,” a studio track that is the latest of Davies’s periodic state-of-the-band messages. His conclusion (“There’s gas in my tank and I’ve still got a way to go”) is, unsurprisingly, one of upbeat resignation. It’s fun to pick out the Kinks references in the song, but one yearns for Davies’s understated, slightly detached irony (“I never thought I’d travel so far to work,” he observed wryly in an earlier road report, 1972’s “Motorway”). But Davies clearly still has much to offer, and judging from this album, so may the Kinks.