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25 September 2010
Photos by Lee
and gentlemen, will you please welcome ...The Moody Blues!!' Thus spake
the voiceover heralding another night in the company of the West
Bit of a
cheek though - they get you all excited with the intro to 'In The
Beginning', making you think they're about to open with 'Lovely To See
You', then plunge headlong into 80sness before you've even sat down with
'The Voice'. Fair enough, it is one of their better post-Pinder
efforts, from the admittedly excellent Long Distance Voyager, and a
pretty rousing opener - just a shame that lately they've taken to
cutting the last verse and chorus (i.e. the best bit) out. Whether this
is due to going on late, conserving their voices or having to create
space in the set for some 'treats' remains unclear, but I don't think
following this with the climactic 'The Day We Meet Again' - one of the
finest three songs Justin Hayward ever wrote - so early on in the set,
throws me at first, but remembering that this is the name of the tour
this time round puts it into perspective, and once in full flight
(thankfully unabridged, unchanged and still as beautiful as ever) it
makes perfect sense.
looks brilliant too - the blow-wave and frilly blouse are gone, replaced
by a long, straight bob of blond hair and plain white hoopneck tee,
topped off by blue flared denim and suede cowboys, and even John Lodge
has done something about his rather unbecoming perm and returned to his
'73 vintage, clad in black T-shirt and jeans rather than the leathers
which have blighted some previous shows. Someone must have told them.
Unfortunately, the keyboard player looks like the bloke who sang 'Doop'
and spends most of the evening throwing the most ludicrously theatrical
shapes - fine if you're in Malmsteen's Rising Force, but not befitting
of a noble band such as this, especially when you consider he stands
where the genius that was Mike Pinder once let forth his lost chords of
Mellotronic doom and widdly maestro Patrick Moraz navigated cruise
And yes, I
do miss having a real 'tron on stage- especially when you consider that
Barclay James Harvest tour on a budget a quarter of this size and they
still use one.
give the boy credit, his synth-duplication of Hayward's solo on
'Driftwood' (another song I was pleased to hear for the first time in
ages) is spot on, although you wonder why J-Hay (as he shall henceforth
never be referred to by anyone) couldn't just switch from electric to
acoustic and done it himself.
definitely more than capable, even if he's long forsaken much of his
trademark fuzz for a cleaner, more processed sound - and seeing him and
Lodge together reminds me once more just how perfect (and underrated) as
guitarist and bass-player they really are. Admittedly, maybe not on the
levels of a Gilmour or Entwistle - the Moodies' music was never about
that anyway - but as near as dammit.
Yet mine is
not to reason why, mine is just to swoon and sigh - and that I do, as
the timeless mysticism of 'Never Comes The Day', 'Tuesday Afternoon',
'Gypsy' (from my personal favourite album, To Our Children's Children's
Children) and (bugger me with a fishfork!! I didn't expect THAT!!) 'Peak
Hour' - sounding exactly as lean and mean as it must have done back in
'67, with Justin on 'full twang' - enter our cosmic spheres.
pretentious hippyspeak, but there's no other way to truly describe
how transcendental this band are when they're on form, or how they can
make a lyric which would sound trite in the hands of anyone else seem
At very much
the opposite end of the rainbow, there's no way to describe how
cringingly bad some of their 80s and 90s material can be - 'Lean On Me
Tonight', from their worst album Keys To The Kingdom, still sounds like
Chris De Burgh trying to master reggae chops down the local variety
theatre, and shouldn't be encouraged, especially when follow-up album
Strange Times contained some worthy tunes, while 'I Know You're Out
There Somewhere' (can this really be the same song I sang on my paper
round when my brother had already discovered Mudhoney? I deserve a slap)
remains the definition of soporific MOR-rock. Thankfully, the simply
shredding 'Story In Your Eyes' follows and puts things back on track.
From the ridiculous to the sublime…
They must be
aware of some of their wrong-footings, though - why else would they not
show the actually-quite-good video to 'Your Wildest Dreams' (starring
80s psych revivalists Mood 6 as the young Moodies) as a back-projection,
yet still inflict the sub-Mad-Max, sub-After-Hours,
let's-dress-the-flautist-up-as-a-gay-biker horrors of the Other Side Of
Life promo on us during said song, unless with a wry and knowing smile?
They must be being ironic, surely?
Not that the
blue-rinsers who constitute 50 percent of the audience (prog and
psych-heads seeming thinner on the ground every year) seem to mind - in
fact, they love it, dancing to and fro and shaking glow sticks about,
causing the front row to resemble some nightmarish vision of your Mum
and your aunts secretly following you to an Ozric Tentacles gig straight
after a PTA meeting. Shudder.
But we are
STILL in the presence of greatness, reinforced by the incalculably
beautiful Are You Sitting Comfortably? Flautist and harmony vocalist
Norda Mullen really dazzles here, nearly filling the hole left in 2003
by Ray Thomas, but I still won't be satisfied until she straps on a
false moustache and sings Legend Of A Mind.
I held vain
hopes that he and Mike Pinder would return for some shows on this, the
45th anniversary of the band's recording career - otherwise why would
they have booked a venue they clearly can't fill?- but sadly ‘twas not
2012 when they've turned 70 and Days Of Future Passed is actually 45
years old? We still have Graeme Edge, though, whose drumming,
recitations of 'Higher And Higher' and 'Late Lament', self-deprecating
humour ('back in '69, when my hair was brown and my teeth were white,
instead of the other way round') and improvised dance steps, though
veering slightly towards cabaret, are a highlight.
Justin is still one of the most peerless vocalists to walk the earth
- at 64 he can still sing the pants off most young pretenders, even
delivering 150 percent on a song like 'Nights…..' which you'd think he'd
be sick of by now. Obviously not.
with 'I'm Just A Singer', 'Question' (more magic fretwork from Mr Lodge)
and the inevitable 'Ride My See Saw' (Justin back on Telecaster)
comprises the finale - yes, I would have orgasmed had they played
'Tortoise And The Hare' or 'The Balance', if only to convince me I was
in a park strewn with flowergirls circa 1970 and not in a grey aircraft
hangar built in 1999 by squandering public money, but you can't have
grateful that in 2010, the Moody Blues, who officially formed 48 years
ago, are still here, still energetic, and looking unlikely to stop
their tightarsed record company will stump up the money for a new studio
album remains to be seen, but you can bet we'll still be listening to
them long after their children's children's children have drawn their
pensions. As the song says, 'Just open your eyes, and realise the way
it's always been'.
The Voice/ The Day We Meet Again/ Steppin' In A Slide Zone/ Gypsy/
Tuesday Afternoon/ Lean On Me Tonight/ Never Comes The Day/ Peak Hour/ I
Know You're Out There Somewhere/ The Story In Your Eyes (INTERVAL) Your
Wildest Dreams/ The Other Side Of Life/ Isn't Life Strange/ Driftwood/
Higher And Higher/ Are You Sitting Comfortably?/ I'm Just A Singer In A
Rock And Roll Band/ Late Lament/ Nights In White Satin/ Question/ Ride
My See Saw
Darius Drewe Shimon
Photos by Lee
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