I recently had the great pleasure to experience for the first time, Birmingham's legendary Moody Blues perform live on-stage at a concert in Toronto Canada. Not knowing what to expect, I went with an open mind and was not dissapointed. After more than 40 years of recording multi-million selling albums and performing countless shows on world tours, the three original members proved they can still rock!
Miserable wet weather at the semi-enclosed arena location failed to dampen the spirits of the audience as the band opened the show with a rousing performance of 'The Voice', a stand-out track from their 1981 "come-back" album Long Distance Voyager. From that point on I was hooked so sat back to enjoy the show which turned out to be refreshingly more than just a parade of greatest hits. The 2011 live line-up in addition to original members Justin Hayward, John Lodge, and Graeme Edge, also included 2nd drummer Gordon Marshall, Alan Hewitt (keyboards), Norda Mullen (flute/acoustic guitar), and Julie Ragins (keyboards).
Despite including "newer" material (including 'Your Wildest Dreams' - a personal fave of mine), the band did not stray far from their 'classic' 1960s-70s period as they went on to perform Justin Hayward's 'Tuesday Afternoon' (from Days of Future Passed), and 1968's 'Voices In The Sky' as well as John Lodge's 'Steppin' In A Slide Zone' and 'Isn't Life Strange'. As expected, the lead vocal duties were split between Justin Hayward and John Lodge (depending on whose song it was) with the girls supplying most of the high harmonies. A notable exception was Graeme Edge who took the lead on a surprising rendition of 1969's 'Higher And Higher'.
It was great to hear Justin Hayward's famous vocal, pitch-perfect after all those years and no sign of letting up. Still playing his trade-mark red Gibson 335 guitar (with Bigsby tremolo), both he and bassist John Lodge were obviously having a great time on stage, even to the point of performing legs-apart, side-by-side guitar, 'Status Quo-like' moves in unison. Founding member Graeme Edge was obviously enjoying himself too. At one point in the show, he stepped from behind his drums to front of stage and announced he'd recently turned 70 years old. The audience then roared with applause at which point Graeme proceeded to dance an energetic jig across the stage to yet more applause and approval!
Stage antics aside, it was really the great music that mattered and of that there was no shortage. As well as the 'hits', there were surprises too. A spirited performance of 'Peak Hour', a lesser known track from 1967's ground-breaking Days Of Future Passed album provided the opportunity for a genuine 1960s extended guitar solo from Justin Hayward along with all the psychedelic lighting and sound effects to go with it. In the same way, their hushed performance of 'Are You Sitting Comfortably' (from 1969's On The Threshold Of A Dream) was enough to transport anyone old or young back in time to that hallowed decade.
Throughout the show, along with the expected spectacular lighting effects, some songs featured vintage photos of the Moody Blues "classic" line-up from the 1960s and 70s projected onto a giant screen behind them as they played. This brought it home all the more to realize just how long the three original members have continued to entertain and obviously still enjoy what they are doing. Encores included 'Ride My See-Saw', 'The Question', and of course the classic 'Nights In White Satin'.
For the Moody Blues' 50th anniversary, would it not be fitting for them to celebrate the event by performing a couple of very special shows at say, The Royal Albert Hall that would also include a reunion with former band-mates Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder? And if that should happen, how about a 'special guest' appearance by Denny Laine invited up on stage with them to sing a rousing rendition of 'Go Now' ? If any of you guys read this - well it's just a thought...
Copyright © John R Woodhouse