Weathering the slump

Ottawa Citizen The Moody Blues built their career in the 1960s by spending hours in the studio, working on meticulously crafted prog-rock albums that bridged the worlds of rock and classical music, complete with a nod to the psychedelic sounds of the time. These days, however, they're weathering the music-industry slump by focusing on being able to deliver a top-notch live show. The British classic rockers, known for hits like Nights in White Satin and Tuesday Afternoon, maintain an annual schedule of about 60 to 70 concerts. While Moody bassist John Lodge is the first to admit that the group could keep much busier if they chose to do so, they don't want to run through the motions to get more cities onto their yearly schedule. "We find it is obviously important to tour, but we also put a significant amount of thought to where we want to tour. A lot of consideration gets put into the logistics of getting our tour to various countries throughout the world too. It is not simply just a matter of us throwing darts at a map and packing up our stuff to head out," he says. Fresh off a string of about 35 concerts in the United States, the Moodys' current tour is a 17-show run from Halifax through Vancouver, their most extensive Canadian tour to date (they'll be in Ottawa Sept. 22). The modern version of the band consists of longtime members Justin Hayward on guitar and vocals, Lodge on bass and Graeme Fletcher on drums, with extra personnel on additional instruments. Their performance at Bluesfest last year was an unexpected highlight. "Travel is definitely the work part of what we do," Lodge says. "Being on stage is what we really want to do, so for 2½ hours a night, it is not working. It is the rest of the day that I consider work." Although Lodge believes the Moody Blues have moved into the 21st century with little difficulty, there is a tinge of dismay in his voice when the conversation turns to how the music industry has evolved over the past 15 years. "When we first started, we made records with 10 or 12 songs that we deliberately took a lot of time and effort to sequence and ensure that listening to the record would be an experience unto itself. What was brilliant for me was the fact that you played a record over and over and you would end up discovering different songs that you would enjoy and share those with your friends. "Today with music downloads however, you have music buyers picking up a song or two from any given record and many are missing out on the 'whole album' experience. Picture buying and downloading John Lennon's track Imagine and missing out on a song like Jealous Guy," he offers. "It is a different time for music right now, there is no question about it. I have always bought music and am always trying to find new music to listen to but find that I am going back to listen to stuff from the '60s and '70s." Despite the fact that Lodge and bandmates Hayward and Edge all are close to 65 years old, Lodge insists they have no plans to hang up their instruments. In fact, the band has already confirmed shows for as far ahead as 2014 "We have to work as far ahead as 2014, believe it or not," Lodge says. "What is important to us as a band is playing the venues that we want to play, that we feel will best serve the live concert experience. And the fact is, we have to book some of the venues this far in advance. It is all good though."
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