Who: The Moody Blues
When: Monday night
Where: Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
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Someone mean-spirited (never a rock critic) might classify the Moody Blues as hoary, irrelevant relics from the 1960s.
Even among the big prog-rock acts of the time -- and we're talking some major-league wankers here -- the Moodies were never particularly cool. Not cool like Pink Floyd or, let's see ... maybe King Crimson. The Moody Blues were all about melodramatic balladry, at sometimes, big-time bombast. This was the result of believing momentous music might be created by fusing rock with "classical" influences, tossing in psychedelic lyrics and generally carrying on in a terribly earnest manner.
About 3,600 fans gathered last night to hear the Moody Blues. There were a few 20-somethings, but most were grey-haired disciples who'd come to relive those days of future passed. The three remaining original Moodies -- Justin Hayward (the cute one), John Lodge (the wavy-haired one) and Graeme Edge (the drummer) -- drew a back-handed compliment from an audience member holding up a sign that read: "For old farts you f'n rock."
The closest the evening came to rocking out was I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band). An uncharacteristically self-deprecating song about the plight of a rock singer, their crashy, percussion-heavy rendition (there were two drummers) was accompanied by vintage footage of the Moody Blues in concert. A female flutist encouraged the crowd to get on its feet ... but it didn't.
No, it took the band's greatest hit to pry those middle-aged bottoms off the plastic seats. Almost two hours into the concert, the Moodies dug out Nights in White Satin (trivia note: Haywood wrote this after a pal presented him with satin bedsheets). The 60-year-old singer -- who due to lucky genes or chemicals still sports a blond mop -- sang it with feeling, although the synthesizer backing couldn't replicate the original string section accompaniment. A few nostalgic types fired up their Bics, while others tossed bouquets on the stage. "Thank you for keeping the faith," declared Lodge.
This kind of mild excitement, which took a long time to arrive, was kept up with an upbeat rendition of Question -- a sort of cosmic look at life's Big Questions and, of course, love.
The highlight of the first set (there were two) was Tuesday Afternoon, which interspersed the Moodies' usual balladry with lurching boogie sections. The evening also included Lean on Me, Never Comes the Day, The Voice, One More Time to Live, I Know You're Out There Somewhere and Your Wildest Dreams.
Among the low-lights were Isn't Life Strange (portentously sung and generally awful), December Snow (forgettable ballad about life being like, um, snow) and Are You Sitting Comfortably (ill-conceived dreck about Merlin casting his spell, Camelot, Guinevere and the gang).
Today, ballads such as Are You Sitting Comfortably tend to suggest Spinal Tap-style self-parody. That's because subsequent movements such as punk, indie rock and hip-hop have irrevocably changed the way we perceive pop music. Back in 1969, however, the Moodies' dreams 'n wizards shenanigans seemed pretty far out ... especially if you were smoking enormous amounts of marijuana.