LIVE: The Moody Blues @ SPAC, 8/4/14
Review by Don Wilcock
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Of all the rock legends from the ’60s still performing, the Moody Blues are the best at stopping time. Justin Hayward’s lyrics are inspired by the romantic British poetry of Byron, Keats and Shelley blended with classical music buoyed by Hayward’s perfectly executed rock guitar that, if anything, has more edge than it did back in 1967. It’s a sumptuous and lush sound that made the band the most blatantly British of a cadre of rockers, the rest of whom were selling American roots music back to the colonies half a century ago.
At Monday night’s Saratoga Performing Arts Center performance, drummer Graeme Edge announced that the band had just celebrated their 50th anniversary the night before. They ended their first set with one of their newest songs, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” a mid-’80s hit. They built their second hour-long set around ever more familiar waves of hits that included “Isn’t Life Strange” from Seventh Sojourn; their first American hit from Days of Future Passed, “Tuesday Afternoon;” “Higher and Higher” with Edge on vocal from To Our Children’s Children’s Children; “Singer in a Rock and Roll Band” from Seventh Sojourn; and they encored with “Ride My See Saw” from In Search of a Lost Chord. Most songs prompted repeated standing ovations from a crowd of all ages, and they closed with their signature song “Nights in White Satin” from the 1967 breakout album Days of Future Passed.
Put the three remaining Moodies next to the Stones, the two remaining Beatles, or Eric Burdon of the Animals, and you’d swear the Moody Blues are a generation younger. A regal Justin
Hayward on lead vocals and guitar stood out even in the wall of sound that included keyboardists Julie Ragins and Allen Hewitt; drummer Graeme Edge was backed up by the aggressive second drummer Gordon Marshall, while original bass player John Lodge draws the audience in with constant gestures and rock star poses with his bass guitar. Norda Mullen on flute, guitar and percussion was as exquisite as she was versatile.
There is the constant threat of diminishing returns from our rock heroes of past glories, but the Moody Blues are growing old gracefully, and their music ages like a fine red wine. That said, the sound on this show was not to up to the majesty of their 2012 Proctors performance. Particularly on the first three songs, Hayward’s lyrics were buried in the mix, and the care they take in blending seven musicians into an orchestral swirl was sometimes buried in a wash that might be more expected from a sound board from 1969 but not 2014.