Top of the Rocks (Super Sonic SS99008)
Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA – November 13th, 1970
(49:40): Opening (Mr. Wonderful / instrumental), Till The End Of The Day, Last of the Steam-Powered Trains, Big Sky, Brainwashed, Strangers, A Long Way From Home, Harry Rag, Act Nice And Gentle, Sunny Afternoon, Waterloo Sunset, Lola, Top of the Pops
After a hiatus from touring that lasted several years (party due to The Kinks being banned from touring the US by the American Federation of Musicians), they returned to live performance with a vengeance. In 1970 they toured the US three times. The third tour, lasting from November 10th to December 11th, saw their popularity skyrocket as they filled much bigger arenas after the June release of their hit single “Lola.”
The Kinks played the Fillmore West early the tour on November 12th, 13th and 14th and were co-billed with Elton John. Top Of The Rocks is a very good to excellent recording. John’s set from the show was also recorded and pressed by Super Sonic on A Truly Great Rocker (SS 99009). The sound quality of the two are identical, suggesting they are from the same taper.
At the beginning the band play “Mr. Wonderful” and an instrumental as an introduction to Ray Davies running on stage acting as the consummate showman. Even though this is a straight ahead rock concert, Ray is already setting the foundation for the theatrical turn they will take in a couple years.
Eschewing their most known songs, they start off with the 1965 hit single “Till The End Of The Day.” They follow with “The Last Of The Steam Powered Trains,” the blues rocker from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. In live performance the track is stretched with Dave taking a long solo in the middle.
“I never thought we’d get here. We left the Elvis Presley concert just in time” Ray says afterwards. The band were given complimentary tickets to see Elvis at the Cow Palace that afternoon. “We’re gonna see him tomorrow night as well” he continues before introducing “Big Sky” as a song they probably did not know.
The Dave Davies written song “Strangers” is the first song from the yet-to-be-released Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. (The new album would come out two weeks later after Ray flew back to London to re-recorded an offending line in “Apeman.”) It is a sweet acoustic ditty which seems to alienate the audience. They follow with another slower acoustic number from the new album “A Long Way From Home.”
“Harry Rag” from Something Else and “Act Nice And Gentle” fare much better, both receiving much louder and enthusiastic applause from the audience. The show continues with great versions of “Sunny Afternoon” (whose first notes are cut due to a tape flip) and “Waterloo Sunset.”
“Lola” is played like the single, without the “Day-O” call that would be common in future performances. Only five months old, it already receives the loudest reception of the night. The final song on the tape is “Top Of The Pops” from the album, ending with various feedback fuzz clouding out the melody.
The rest of the show is unfortunately missing. Judging from the setlist of the show a week later in Woodland Hills, California, they continued on with “You Really Got Me,” “All Of The Day And All Night,” “Milk Cow Blues,” “One Night” and “Victoria.”
Top Of The Rocks is a very good Kinks silver on a good label. It is packaged in a standard jewel case with various color and black and white photographs from the era on the artwork. Despite a few typos in the setlist, this forms a good companion piece with the Elton John and is a good title to have.