The Moody Blues progress

VICTORIA, B.C.: October, 8, 2011 - Bassist John Lodge of the Moody Blues plays the Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena in VICTORIA, B.C. October  8, 2011. (ARNOLD LIM, TIMES COLONIST) VICTORIA, B.C.: October, 8, 2011 - Bassist John Lodge of the Moody Blues plays the Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena in VICTORIA, B.C. October 8, 2011. (ARNOLD LIM, TIMES COLONIST)

What: The Moody Blues

When: Saturday

Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre

Rating: Four stars (out of five)

The Moody Blues know exactly what they’re doing. Forty years ago, they may have been one of a few bands breaking ground in a new genre called prog-rock. Today, as they proved last night at their final performance of tour that began in Nova Scotia, they have entirely embraced the nostalgic, public service they now perform. Let me begin with a disclaimer. By the time I was born, The Moody Blues had released their groundbreaking 1967 album, Days of Future Passed, the album they’re still most fondly remembered for. It was an album that has been called, with some debate, the first ever prog-rock album, taking a step out of underground psychedelia, building longer songs, shifting tempos, inviting symphonic orchestras in on the fun, and more. By the time I was born, they had also exchanged that orchestra for the Mellotron’s string and flute-like sounds, they had passed through a “concept-rock” phase, they had experimented with new sounds. Around the time I was born, they drew new audiences, or at least reminded older ones that they are still kicking it, with the 1986 release of The Other Side of Life and one of their biggest selling singles, Your Wildest Dreams. The electro-pop sound may not have been their strongest but their fans loved it. From there, as I grew and they grew old, it was only natural that they entered the box set, greatest hit packages and PBS specials stage of their lives. Should anyone be surprised that, four decades since their young, crazy days, they now appear to share the same hairstylist as those dashing ladies from The View? As a band who built their sound in sensitivity to their audience — remember, it was after they overheard an audience member call their rhythm and blues tunes rubbish that they took the fresh approach that culminated in the new sound of Days of Future Passed — it’s no surprise that they continue to be loyal to that special relationship. Past their golden years, they rightfully give the people what they want: those classic hits that they owe their success to. It was apparent the moment they marched on stage — bassist/vocalist John Lodge in leather pants, drummer Graeme Edge in tie-dye and guitarist/vocalist Justin Hayward in jeans and a tee — and began performing 1981’s The Voice before psychedelic graphics for the somewhat spotty audience at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre Saturday. It was a set that carried the audience through time, of course including favourites such Nights in White Satin and Tuesday Afternoon, as the graphics moved between footage of spaceship launches and old photos of themselves. The Moodies have avoided the hazards that have befallen some of the other few surviving bands of their vintage who continue to tour: they show no signs of exhaustion or resentment and they aren’t trying to woo fans with new material that will inevitably disappoint. Lodge was a particularly charming showman, shielding his eyes and pointing out to the sea of people, as if you’re the old friend he’s looking for. “I know you’re out there somewhere,” he sings. Yes, nostalgia was fully embraced tonight — even in the moments of banter. “We’re going to transport you back to a time of festivals, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead,” Lodge promises. Edge makes a quip about recently turning 70, “It does mean I’ve been through the 60s twice,” he says, before leaping a performance of Higher and Higher that involves a microphone dip, an Irish jig and a toss of his tamborine over the shoulder. Yes, it was a tight performance — as is to be expected when they band has had 40 years to rehearse some of the songs. But it was made better by the surprising fact that both Lodge and Hayward’s vocals remain enormously strong, along with support from four additional multi-instrumentalists — most notably, Gordon Marshall on the second drumkit, who, at certain points, rose from his seat and percussed in a measured, but wild rotation of limbs not unlike Animal from the Muppet Show. No, this was not a concert for me — it was for the two women who loyally shimmied, shook, and whipped their hair around from the centre-100s seats. It was for the elderly woman in the nosebleed section who gently wiggled her shoulders to Peak Hour. It was for the man in the front row who pointed directly at Lodge and sang back to him, “Oh how I love you, oh how I love you.” This story has been updated with corrected information © Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist
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