Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Sara Ayers
Few bands seem to inspire the undying devotion of their fans like the Moody Blues. Perhaps it’s the band’s underdog status – never critics’ darlings, the veteran band still hasn’t made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Ah, but that’s a story for another day…
Opening their sold-out concert at Proctors in Schenectady last Thursday, guitarist Justin Hayward stepped up to the microphone and sang, “Long time, so see,” as the Moodies chugged into “Gemini Dream.” And the fans welcomed them as long-lost relatives (or conquering heroes) with a standing ovation.
Yes, the Moodies were back… not that they ever went away. The band just seems to keep rolling along like a well-oiled machine, churning through the misty musical memories, while their rabid army of graying fans re-live more youthful days through a veil of nostalgia.
In concert, the Moodies – led by guitarist Hayward, bassist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge – rarely, if ever, disappoint. And that’s quite an amazing accomplishment, considering that the band is celebrating the 45th anniversary of their breakthrough album – the lush, ground-breaking “Days of Future Past,” which set the band on its path toward the softer, gentler side of progressive rock.
The classics – including both “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin,” naturally – were astonishingly intact and still potent. Not bad at all for a seven-piece rock band that was duplicating the expansive sound of an orchestra. The band’s “newer” recruits – drummer Gordon Marshall, keyboardist Alan Hewitt, flutist-vocalist Norda Mullen and jill-of-all-trades Julie Ragins (keyboards, guitar, vocals, saxophone, percussion) – filled in the sonic gaps nicely. And, of course, when your sound is built on lush, high harmonies, it’s a wise decision to have a couple of female voices to soar over the top.
No mere ’60s act, the band nodded generously to its MTV-era resurgence, as the fog and the flute rolled in for Lodge’s rockin’ “Slippin’ in a Slide Zone” and other latter-day nuggets including “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” and “Your Wildest Dreams.” A few of the band’s selections fell into the realm of generic pop – notably Lodge’s “Nervous” and Hayward’s “Say It With Love” – but the Moodies’ catalog is deep and rich enough that the missteps were few and far between, and when they launched into gems like the contemplative “Isn’t Life Strange” or the churning “Question,” which closed out the show, the middling material was quickly forgotten.
It was, of course, an evening brimming over with baby-boomer nostalgia, and it’s possible to make an argument for the Moodies as the Glenn Miller of the ’60s. Fortunately, however, their best songs – from the complex arrangement of “Peak Hour” to the rousing encore of “Ride My See-Saw” – were easily able to transcend the time warp.
THE MOODY BLUES SET LIST
The Day We Meet Again
Steppin’ in a Slide Zone
You and Me
Say It With Love
I Know You’re Out There Somewhere
The Story in Your Eyes
Your Wildest Dreams
Isn’t Life Strange
The Other Side of Life
Higher and Higher
I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock & Roll Band)
Nights in White Satin
Ride My See-Saw