John Lodge at Trading Boundaries, Sheffield Green, East Sussex
April 10, 2019
By Paul Davies
A magical fairy lit evening in an enchanted venue straight out of a musical fantasy found a pitch-perfect performance of more than moody proportions by John Lodge and his crack ensemble of players.
Still sporting a magnificent bouffant style head of hair as though he has just stepped straight out of a late 1960s King’s Road Chelsea hair salon, Lodge literally and musically rolled back the years with a classy retrospective set of Moody Blues classics, back in the day solo specials and a confident pick of tunes from his excellent recently released solo album 10,000 Light Years Ago.
Exuding natural charisma and clearly very comfortable engaging with a close-up audience, in this warm and intimate venue, as he is to 10,000 plus capacity arenas, this 10,000 light year man created a buzz of anticipated joy prior to his grand entrance. Walking onto a stage decorated with Hindu and Buddha statues and eastern inspired decorated ornamentation, opener Steppin’ In A Slide Zone enraptured a musically sharp and devoted audience and so began an evening of legendary music.
Funnily forgetting the Moody’s album title from which Nervous was taken from – Long Distance Voyager – Lodge confidently negotiated the tricky arrangement of this and the punchy psych out of Peak Hour.
Prefacing songs (Evening) Time To Get Away and Sunset with the reflective wisdom of Days Of Future Passed being the album that changed his life forever, the presence alone of these much-loved songs produced a wistful and swooning effect on the collective countenance of this evening’s sold out fanbase.
Paying his heartfelt respects to his recently passed away bandmate, Ray Thomas, by recalling their first meeting on a Birmingham bus and a resolution to form a band which developed into The Moody Blues, Lodge has lost none of his own Brummie accent as he launched into a head-spinning take of Thomas’ Legend Of A Mind.
Searching for the lost chord metaphorically inspires musicians to experiment and expand their sound base in a quest to surpass their own and their fans expectations and Lodge has done just this on numerous occasions as tonight’s setlist revealed in bucket loads.
Going back to his well of musical wonderment, Lodge effortlessly switched between superbly played bass lines and fills and 12 string acoustic to plunder a back pocket of seminal penned songs. It’s no surprise that this affable and visibly content Ivor Novello winning song man revels in sharing his anecdotes to a peerless catalogue of tunes as he smiled his way through a rare outing of Candle Of Life and the redeeming Saved By The Music.
A sonic triptych of stellar Moody Blues songs Gemini Dream, Isn’t Life Strange and I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock ‘n’ Roll Band) closed an evening of exquisite entertainment in an exotic environment as an audience of diners and standing fans raised the starry roof of this entrancing venue especially when the band returned to blast the loon pants off psych classic Ride My See-Saw.
No artist alone can be a one-man band and execute the arrangements of some of the most sophisticated songs in rock music and, as mentioned earlier, Lodge is blessed with a crack band of players. Guitarist Duffy King, Cellist Jason Charboneau, Keyboard maestro Allan Hewitt (who also produces Earth, Wind & Fire) and holding everything together, between the onstage exotic adornments, drummer Billy Ashbaugh are some of the finest musicians I have witnessed in a close-up and personal setting.
Not enough words can be written to commend venues such as Trading Boundaries for the effort, passion and risk-taking in putting on special evenings of music with top-notch food and service. To wander around the vast rooms of authentically sourced antique Indian furniture and decorations is to have one’s mind, body and soul transported to another continent and then there is the upstairs Roger Dean room whose artworks Trading Boundaries represent and display for sale. Moreover, Roger is a frequent visitor here from his nearby studio in Lewes.
My evening was completed by the thrilling company of Yes singer Jon Davison – who revealed that Yes are currently writing new songs for a forthcoming album – who joined my dining booth with John Lodge’s wonderful daughter Emily and Trading Boundaries co-owner Michael Clifford who with Tracy Thomson founded this delightful and sparklingly magical emporium of live music and exotica.