18th September 2010
I have had a longstanding liking for the Moody Blues and last night I finally got to see them live in Nottingham.
I think it's fair to say that the Moody Blues star was on the wane by the time I chanced upon them in 1979. Their heyday was from 67 to 70 and in an era of punk ,their brand of melodic concept music was so far out of fashion that its a small miracle I discovered them at all. Its' all down to Kate, the secretary at my first office. She whistled "Nights in white satin" endlessly, a tune which settled into my consciousness only to be reactivated when I visited friends a few years later who had all five of the early albums (Threshold of a Dream, Children's Children, Seventh Sojourn etc) on vinyl and were happy to let me tape them. The resulting recordings were played endlessly in my car till the tapes stretched and were eaten up. But the damage was done. The entire early catalogue of the Moody's work was loaded into my cerebral hard drive and there it has stayed, slotted into a dark corner just waiting to be revived.
When my brother in law lamented a missed opportunity to see them live a couple of years ago I confessed my appreciation of their work and so a plan was hatched to see them as soon as an opportunity presented itself - and that was last night.
So what did I make of it? Can they still deliver the goods? - You bet they can!
The line up is now reduced to just three of the original five:
I bet that these guys never thought that they would still be playing their 1960's classics to adoring sell out audiences 40 years later.
The gaps left in the line up are filled with the addition of two guys on drums and keyboards and two girls on keyboards, flute, harmonica, guitar and vocals, and whilst they are credited during the performance, its clear that 'the band' consists on Hayward, Lodge and Edge. The combination of the three stalwarts and the four supplements is electrifying. They put their all into it and carry it of with style. They are still a very tight live band, harnessing modern technology but staying true to the original sound we love so much.
The show routine is well established, right down to Edge and the other drummer chucking their drumsticks to each other, but I wasn't expecting too much improvisation. Justin Hayward's silky voice is as good as ever and if you closed your eyes you wouldn't think that he and John Lodge are deep into their 60's. The band projected a series of psychedelic images onto the screen behind them, sometimes including photos of them in all their flower power finery. It was hard to believe that the lads peering out of faded images were one and the same as the guys on the stage belting out 'Tuesday' and 'Nights in white satin'. The play list included material from all seven albums and whilst not word perfect, I knew all bar two from the 1990's era.
Then there is the audience. Inevitably they (we) were mostly of a certain age and the reflected glare when the stage lights shone on the audience's heads was blinding. That said, they played to a packed house and the audience loved every minute. Maybe the bloke in front of me bowing down in homage was a bit much, but their performance justified the adulation they received.
My only negative take away were the harmonies. The Moody Blues were famed for their towering harmonies, voice climbing on voice. The reduced line up, taken with advancing age has taken its toll on the scope for the multi layered harmonies. This isn't a criticism really - just an observation.
Some musical material ages very badly but not so the Moody's. Their sound was always distinctive and has proved to be timeless.
At £30 plus, the tickets are by no means cheap but to experience the magic of the Moody Blues live is priceless. If you are compiling a "100 artists to hear before I die" list it would be a crime to miss out Justin Hayward et al.