What two things do David Copperfield, Jay Leno, Reba McEntire and the Moody Blues all have in common?
They were all part of the 1992 showroom roster in the old showroom at Caesars Palace. And they all remain remarkably consistent, especially when it comes to playing casinos.
After the Moodies capped exactly 90 minutes at The Venetian last weekend — the first of five shows continuing through Saturday — I wondered how the set list might have compared to the years when it wasn’t universally understood that classic rockers would end up replacing the Rat Pack-era stars.
Setlist.fm kicked up a song list from Caesars in 1998. It served as a reminder that singer-flautist Ray Thomas was still in the group then and that the band was still releasing new albums. Still, only five songs weren’t part of last weekend’s set.
And for at least four years, the Moodies haven’t deviated much from last weekend’s first and last few songs. A five-night run falls somewhere between a “weekend” and a “residency” in today’s Las Vegas marketplace, but it’s not enough to call for a special hook, such as an orchestral or “unplugged” show.
But consistency runs both ways. The Moodies have been part of some of their fans’ lives even longer than Reba or Leno. Despite some roughly blended vocals and burying those dramatic orchestral keyboards way down in the mix, the sound and songs are remarkably stable.
The set list flows almost in reverse to reward the loyal, opening with the early MTV hits “Gemini Dream” and “The Voice” but ending up with the more cosmic “Question” and “Ride My See-Saw” from 1970 and ’68. Even the top 10 1986 hit “Your Wildest Dreams” came before the homestretch, and that was the song nostalgically punctuated by photos of the band through the years.
The passage of time, tweaks to the arrangements (easing up on that Mellotron) and the voice of Justin Hayward all have a way of blending the days of future passed.
Hayward turns 70 on Friday, and his voice remains one of the great ones bridging the dawn of FM rock with the sunset of the crooner era. He asked for a little help from the audience on this night’s acoustic-guitar middle section of “Question” but would have found them quite forgiving had he not.
Bassist and co-frontman John Lodge isn’t quite as powerful on his vocals at 71. But when he and Hayward took turns singing “Isn’t Life Strange,” it was the first song that seemed to resonate on a level that spoke to how long these two have been at this.
But the heart and soul of the group turned out to be 75-year-old drummer Graeme Edge, who stayed out of the limelight until near the end. For years his health has required a second drummer on stage, but here he told the crowd he’d recently had a stroke. Not to play it for sympathy, he related that his life had “flashed before me eyes” and made him realize “I have some repenting to do.”
He then proceeded to hop, skip and dance around the stage for “Higher and Higher.” And in one of the few production flourishes, Edge was framed by lasers and fog to recite “Late Lament,” and really made us hear a poem that could have been cringe-worthy.
You get the idea there’s at least one guy on stage who’s celebrating the fact that this may not go on forever, and knew to savor what was otherwise just another night in the Moodies’ long career — business as usual, for better or worse.