Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CONCERT REVIEW: The Moody Blues (3.14.12)

The Moody Blues
King Center / Melbourne, FL

As a music fan turning
50 later this year, I'm
old enough to have
lived during the
Summer of Love.
But I was young
enough back then to
have an "unclouded"
memory of the era.

An estimated 100,000  hippies converged on San Francisco for "The Summer of Love" while The Six Day War ensued and the Vietnam War escalated. The Johnson administration was ramping down and the Nixon era was revving up. Groundbreaking TV shows such as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Newlywed Game and Spider-Man all made their debut in 1967. At the movies, Dustin Hoffman became a household name with his starring breakout role in The Graduate, and Sidney Poitier scored two box office hits with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and To Sir, with Love. BTW, my personal cinematic fave, The Jungle Book, also arrived in theaters in 1967. Musical boundaries were being erased and un-chartered waters were being explored in 1967 as The Beatles dropped Sgt. Pepper, The Who "sold out," Jimi Hendrix got "experienced" and a 20-year-old kid from London quietly released his debut record to little fanfare — however, within just a couple of years, David Bowie would become a true rock icon.

And it was in 1967 when a struggling, mid-level British rock combo called The Moody Blues released its sophomore LP. After experiencing a near total personnel overhaul, the fledgling band was moving away from its R&B roots in 1967 and developing a more unique and experimental sound — incorporating an orchestra into its increasingly intricate arrangements. The end result was the now legendary concept record, Days of Future Passed. And in 2012, The Moody Blues have embarked on a world tour to commemorate the 45th anniversary of this groundbreaking achievement.

With original keyboardist Mike Pinder having left the band under dubious circumstances in the late '70s and flautist Ray Thomas' retirement in 2002, remaining semi-original guitarist Justin Hayward  and bassist John Lodge along with founding drummer Graeme Edge have continued to carry the torch, keeping the Moody Blues grand musical tradition alive (and well) for the last decade.

The predominantly 50-60-something King Center audience cheered like tweenagers at a Bieber meet-and-greet as Hayward, Lodge and Edge took the stage at approximately 8:10PM.

Kicking off the show with "Gemini Dream" and "The Voice" — a double dose from the 1981, chart-topping Long Distance Voyager record, the band delivered a high-energy, two-hour performance featuring such signature "must play" biggies as "Your Wildest Dreams," "Isn't Life Strange," "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)," and "Question" as well as "Tuesday Afternoon" and "Nights in White Satin"  — a pair from the aforementioned Days of Future Passed.

Whereas every great rock band needs a "Roger Daltrey," a "John Entwistle" is equally important. While Hayward presents a (very) laid back, Perry Como-meets-rock and roll onstage persona (I saw him blink, twice), Lodge remains full of rock star swagger and energy — exuding charisma as he worked the stage — winking and wiggling, dancing and prancing, much to the delight of his adoring fans. And although Edge's onstage role initially appeared limited to merely that of a second-chair drummer, he miraculously sprung to life following the intermission when he commandeered the mic, center-stage, and led the band through an outrageously fun and quite spirited version of the 1969 fan favorite, "Higher and Higher." The Moody Blues concert seemingly had become "The Graeme Edge Show" — and it was awesome!

Make no mistake, despite their ages (Hayward - 65,  Lodge - 66 and Edge - 70) and the fact that their music has been around longer than some of their fans have been alive, this was no lounge-type presentation. In fact, with their state-of-the-art concert lighting, humongous, rear-stage HD-like video screen and generous use of obligatory rock and roll fog / smoke machines, this show looked as impressive as probably any arena headliner currently on the road. As for the audio, simply put, the band sounded studio-perfect. And given that the show took place at such a world-class venue as The King Center, only further enhanced the experience.

But these days the touring version of the band includes seven onstage musicians. And therein lies the delightful bonus of The Moody Blues' live show — the impeccable musicianship, energy and charm of the support cast. Drummer Gordon Marshall has assumed first-chair duty with the band for a couple of lengthy runs during the last 20 years, and as a newcomer, acknowledged session player / producer Alan Hewitt makes for a perfect fit on keyboards. But there's nothing like the tried and true chick factor to make a rock show sizzle, and keyboardist / guitarist / vocalist Julie Ragins and flautist / vocalist Norda Mullen both proved to be true shining stars in their own right as well as complementing the ensemble.

Outstanding job, kids! Let's get together and do it again sometime — SOON!

-Christopher Long
(March 2012)

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  1. Great review, thanks for that! :-)

    rainbow glo

  2. THANK YOU, CHRISTOPHER!! Finally a reviewer who has done his homework and "gets" this band!!!

  3. Thanks Rainbow Glo and Juslin217. I truly appreciate the kind words of encouragement. Feel free to stop by anytime!

  4. I just saw them in Greenville, SC. They were awful. Their voices were so far off key as to be painful. Now, I may be overly critical. I conduct an orchestra and have perfect pitch, but this was intolerably bad. Even the woman on the flute, who was mediocre as a flautist, was terrible as a singer. And, she and Hayward or Lodge were often out of sync in their singing, which made it even more distracting. Hayward and Lodge can still play their instruments, perhaps the only saving grace to an otherwise dreadful show. Edge drummed on the level of a high school drummer and let the young kid carry the load. They should be ashamed of this terrible performance. I had to go home and put in one of their great CDs just to clear my ears from this assault. This is a perfect example of a band that should have stayed in retirement.

    1. non capisci un belino

    2. Saw them last night at the Capitol Theater in Port CHester, NY. The review is on the money. Same exact show and I had the same reaction and emotions coming away from it. Good job!

  5. Greetings -- ec5b308e-3a53-11e2-870b-000bcdca4d7a!

    Thanks for the positive feedback. I'm glad that you enjoyed the show. Don't be a stranger!