Moody Blues Concert Review
Wednesday night, March 13th, The Moody Blues performed their Highway 45 Anniversary Tour at Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie, TX. These days, we are getting to see anniversary tours of many of the bands we grew up with. In some cases, such as Ian Anderson, Rush and Mark Knopfler, they have never been better. In others, such as Bob Dylan and Kansas, they simply need to stop touring. For fans of the Moody Blues, anytime they perform is a special treat. After all, those of us in my generation and older practically grew up on their music and lyrics of wisdom and of life in general. In fact, so much so that their fans practically ran the band out of existence back in 1974 looking upon the members as something like prophets or saints; seeking band members for spiritual guidance or blessings and the like.
In 2013 I am happy to say that cult levels of adoration and feelings for the Moody Blues is no longer that and has found a more enthusiastic level accorded to only the finest bands from that era. Graeme Edge proudly announced last night that he was 71 years old and then proceeded to cavort all over stage in a very well done version of “Higher and Higher”, one of his own compositions, off of 1969’s To Our Children’s Children’s Children. But primarily it was the Justin Hayward and John Lodge show nowadays – more Blue Jays than Moody Blues.
As is with most of these aging rocker’s shows, there are the highlights and the inevitable low points to every show. Just check your expectations at the door and take the show as it is and you will be happy. This tour is celebrating their 45th year as a band, or 46th as Graeme Edge was quick to point out. Only 3 remaining band members are touring; Justin Hayward, John Lodge, and Graeme Edge. Ray Thomas retired over 10 years ago, and the keyboard greatness of Pinder/Moraz hasn’t been around for ages. Whenever any band loses key members to retirement or death, the resulting product is never as good as the original. However, as I stated above, checking your expectations at the door resulted in a very enjoyable experience last night nonetheless.
The show lasted from 8:15pm until practically 10:30pm with a 20 minute intermission. The baby boomers were everywhere especially in the well ordered single line for merchandise winding like a snake through the entire front area. No rushing the tables and butting in line for these people! Every song was greeted enthusiastically and ended with maybe a 25% standing ovation. Practically everyone over 50 in the audience knew most of the words to all the songs and one could see them silently, or in a few cases unfortunately not so silently, mouthing the words. You could tell that the Moody Blues ended the show knowing that some of that 45 year old adoration still was there for them, and that is a good thing.
My critical side, though, always has to show through, and I found myself always comparing that night to shows I had seen since 1979 at the Dallas Convention Center Arena. I obviously did not check my expectations at the door!!! I am always disappointed when a band completely throws a song away on stage. Speeding up a song just to get it over with or to squeeze more songs into a show is not acceptable. Unfortunately they did this on more than one occasion on the opening number, Gemini Dream, I know You’re Out There Somewhere, I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band, (always the encore song) Ride My See-Saw, plus others. The keyboard parts of Moody Blues songs are integral to their sound yet all evening one could barely hear the keyboards at all. Backup vocals will always be a miss without Ray Thomas’ voice and it was no different last night. For the most part Hayward and Lodge were good together, but on some songs they just couldn’t hit the notes. But that was to be expected and didn’t bother me.
All was not bad though. Songs like Gypsy, The Voice, Your Wildest Dreams were every bit the Moody Blues classics that we all know. As I mentioned earlier, Higher and Higher was especially good as the keyboards and drums were finally making their presence known. Nights in White Satin is always a crowd favorite and the Moody Blues did not disappoint. Justin Hayward’s voice was as good as ever on this song and I found myself really liking the acoustic guitar part. Special two thumbs up go to, first, The Other Side of Life. It is very important to capture the bass riff on that song and it was perfect. Second, Isn’t Life Strange is a great song no matter what, and the dual leads of, first, Lodge, then, Hayward, then the chorus together were classic Moody Blues. Third goes to Peak Hour. Interestingly enough I can’t recall them ever playing Peak Hour off of the Days of Future Passed album. It was a real treat and was received well. Lastly, the great song, Question, was just about perfect. Hearing Justin Hayward belt out the lyrics, especially during the middle quiet part of the song gave me chills.
All in all, it was a very pleasant evening and not once did I ever feel I did not get entertained. Classic moment from last night was when Graeme Edge held up the peace symbol with his fingers and said “It doesn’t mean Peace anymore. It means Viagra! Whatever, it is STILL drugs, sex, and Rock ‘n’ Roll!” Seeing rock legends perform on stage after all these years and still being able to evoke memories and emotions from 45 years ago is still amazing. Decades ago we knew they were special musicians and never did we even consider that we would still be enjoying their music and still singing all the words to all their songs 45 years later.