Moody Blues take fans back through the years By STEPHEN COOKE Entertainment Reporter Fri, Sep 16 - 7:03 AM As pop culture folk wisdom puts it, if you can remember the ’60s, you weren’t really there. That might explain why bands from the era continue to tour, to refuel their own memories as well as those of an audience that could stand a refresher course. But with British rock survivors the Moody Blues, it’s not just the ’60s, but also the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s that were brought into the mix for a master lecture in psychedelic, progressive and adult contemporary pop sounds for a class of nearly 3,000 baby boomers at the Halifax Metro Centre on Thursday night. Only a handful of acts can lay claim to having hits in four consecutive decades, which seems to be justification enough for remaining members Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge to continue playing those songs for fans now. (Their last studio recording was the holiday release December, in 2003.) Expanded to a seven-piece touring unit, the current version of the Moodies has the daunting task of recreating a broad sonic palette that’s been engrained in listeners’ memories for ages. With drummer Gordon Marshall doubling Edge’s kit, Alan Hewitt’s banks of keyboards, Norda Mullen on flute and guitar and Julie Ragins on keyboard, guitar and vocals, they had all their bases covered. The band kicked off with The Voice, the single from my first Moody Blues record, 1981’s Long Distance Voyager, featuring the lyric “Won’t you take me back to school/I need to learn the golden rule” while a driving rhythm and pop art patterns on the backdrop set the scene for the evening. The songs could be mystical and fourth-dimensional like The Day We Meet Again, with double acoustic guitars and the electronic approximation of vintage Mellotron sounds, or they could just flat-out nail it to the wall, like bassist Lodge’s first vocal turn, Steppin’ in a Slide Zone, the heaviest tune with a flute this side of Jethro Tull. Clad in black, Lodge looked like an aging glam star with his impressive grey mane and tight trousers, and rock poses down to a T. Longtime bandmate Hayward was a striking contrast, dressed head to toe in white pants and shirt, looking a shade more noble as he wielded his guitar, but still singing with the same depth of feeling that cut through layers of production on the original recordings. A prime example was Tuesday Afternoon, from the groundbreaking 1967 Days of Future Passed album, with the blond frontman perfectly recapturing that sense of youthful questioning as photos from their Summer of Love heyday played out behind them. A few songs later, Lodge would get his crack at a Days of Future Passed tune, remarking that “I’d like to take you way back to the ’60s,” to a loud chorus of cheers. “For those of you who where there, welcome back,” he continued with Birmingham cheek, before turning on the time machine with Peak Hour, a strobe-lit rush of psychedelic rock decorated with Mullen’s swirling flute, cathedral organ and close spectral harmonies. The double drum kits of Edge and Marshall were in full swing, with the former bearing a beatific smile, simply enjoying the flashback. The Moody Blues’ ability to rock out also came to the fore in The Story in Your Eyes, marking the transition from the ’60s to the ’70s with a guitar blast that sounded like a blueprint for UK tripsters Hawkwind, who in turn spawned proto-metal gods Motorhead, a connection that probably wouldn’t have come to mind before watching Hayward and Lodge standing back to back and cranking it up. Then there were those moments that recalled the soundtrack to late nights in college dorm rooms with a towel stuffed under the door, like Lodge’s wistful contemplation of Isn’t Life Strange, from 1972’s Seventh Sojourn, with Marshall and Edge trading off on the beat as the former stood behind his kit and played his array of cymbals like a brass plate symphony. It’s clear Marshall was on hand to do most of the heavy lifting percussion-wise, but it was hard to begrudge Edge — who recently celebrated his 70th birthday — his place on the stage. “I got to go through the ’60s twice. The first time my hair was brown, my teeth were real and this symbol meant peace,” grinned Edge, making a V-sign. “Now my hair is white, my teeth are porcelain and this means Viagra.” Being part of music history also means being able to witness some remarkable human history, and Edge was enthusiastic in his recitation of Higher and Higher from 1969’s To Our Children’s Children’s Children, an album that used the Apollo 11 moon landing as a launching pad for ruminations on the future of mankind. With a chunka-chunka beat and some of the more persuasive sounds of the Age of Aquarius, the song provided one of the evening’s trippier experiences and earned one of the evening’s number of standing ovations from a crowd that seemed to be with the band at every turn. The Moody Blues’ ’80s resurgence was represented by singles like I Know You’re Out There Somewhere and The Other Side of Life, songs that continue Hayward’s favourite themes of longing and searching and have resisted becoming tainted by the decade’s tendency toward cheesiness (the kind that can be found in The Other Side of Life’s music video). But it wasn’t these songs that had the crowd waiting on the edge of their seats. That honour will always go to the Moody Blues’ career-defining 1967 hit Nights in White Satin, which remains a glorious outpouring of passion 44 years on. It now seems a bit weightier when stripped of its London Festival Orchestra strings, but it’s still a swelling climax of a song, with Hayward’s voice soaring as high as it ever did. It’s hard to believe he was 19 when he wrote the song, or that it could retain its power as music changed so drastically around it. But then again, the Moodies always did have a thing about keeping an eye on the future. ?
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