In early 1983 we were thrilled to learn that The Kinks, whose records I faithfully bought and wore out, were going to play at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I had seen them only once before, as part of a bizarre festival show at Anaheim Stadium in 1977 that also featured The Tubes and Nazareth, with The Kinks going on before headliner Alice Cooper.
But on that day I was a country mile from the stage, and the Davies brothers were little more than, well, little. Throw in sucky 1977 stadium acoustics and that made for a less-than-fond memory of one of the great British bands ever. So we relished the opportunity to see them in a more intimate setting, and bought general admission tickets the day they went on sale.
The Convention Center Rotunda was perhaps most famous for The Beatles’ stop there in 1964, the second on their whirlwind initial U.S. tour. We had enjoyed our first show there just after moving to Las Vegas in 1979, when Journey performed at the height of its Steve Perry-era fame. We had come from the Bay Area, where Journey were regarded as local-heroes-made-good, much the way Las Vegas now views The Killers. The Rotunda was still UNLV’s home basketball venue.
The opening act was Scandal, a one-hit group (“Goodbye to You”) in high rotation on MTV. They weren’t bad by any measure, but the memory that stands out is singer Patty Smyth’s irritation at the decided lack of enthusiasm from the several thousand Kinks fans anxious for Scandal’s set to end. When it finally did, we were treated to a rousing time by Ray, Dave and the band, including a lot of their soon-to-be-released State of Confusion album and a sprinkling of the classics. They established a fun, friendly atmosphere that removed the aura of seeing rock royalty, making it more of a show than a formal concert. Built in along the way were the trademark “Lola” teases and lots of “DAAAAY-O” from Ray. An ample dancefloor proved fun for a while, but about halfway through the show became an unruly crush near the stage.
I was surprised to learn years later, from Dave’s book, Kink, that he was going through a lot of emotional turmoil at the time of this show. But from what I recall, he looked like he was having a great time, smiling ear to ear for much of the evening. We managed to get close to the stage before the crush, and my wife Sue snapped a few fun shots with our trusty Kodak 126, some with Ray showing us his bicuspids as he rapped about a dentist appointment.
It was the only Kinks concert in Las Vegas history. Even 31 years later it’s nice to hear talk of a possible reunion.