|Images of the early Moody Blues flashed behind the 2015 version |
of the Moodies performing at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles
on May 5, 2015. Photo: Robert Kinsler
Deftly balancing nostalgia and a contemporary concert experience, the Moody Blues’ inspired performance at the Greek Theatre on May 5 was both a trip down Memory Lane and a chance to hear a fantastic group of seven players share their unique blend of psychedelic, folk and art rock in a perfect setting.
With no opening band, the Moody Blues (featuring singer-guitarist Justin Hayward, singer-bassist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge) were able to deliver a two-part 18-song set that featured all but one of the group's big hits (the exception being "Go Now") as well as some deep album cuts of interest to hardcore fans.
Opening with a spirited version of their early ’80s hit “Gemini Dream,” the selection was the first of many to feature Hayward’s melodic and precise style of lead guitar. “The Voice” followed, with Hayward's still-potent vocals and the group's shining harmonies engulfing the open air theater.
Having joined that rare group of rock acts still thriving after 50 years together, the Moody Blues’ ability to shift gears from its ELO-ish ’80s material back to psychedelic rock carved out in the ’60s and art rock from the ’70s material was relatively easy because of the talents of the talented musicians on stage.
Norda Mullen was particularly effective in helping bring the ambitious and wide-ranging material to life, using her virtuoso talents on flute along with her acoustic guitar play and strong soprano to enhance the songs. On the rarely heard “You and Me” (off the band's 1972 disc “Seventh Sojourn”), Mullen’s skillful work on acoustic guitar mirrored Hayward’s intensity on his electric instrument as the folk rock song built in intensity to a dramatic finish.
The near-capacity crowd was tuned into the band’s concert from the beginning, but seemed to really get into the spirit of the special night when the band performed “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” near the end of the first half of the show, many remaining on their feet for the psychedelic rocker “The Story in Your Eyes.”
The Moody Blues lost no momentum when they returned from an intermission to perform another hour of original music. The uplifting “Your Wildest Dreams,” introspective British-styled folk piece “Isn't Life Strange,” ardent “Tuesday Afternoon” and straight-up rocker “I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)” were among the highlights of the fast-moving second act.
|Justin Hayward performing "Nights in White Satin" at|
the Greek Theatre on May 5. Photo: Robert Kinsler
“Nights in White Satin” remains a powerful piece of symphonic rock, with Hayward’s mighty voice and sterling work on his 12-string guitar a key part of the song’s magic. The song was reworked where Edge came down from behind his kit to recite the iconic "Late Lament" poem he wrote that closes out the 1967 studio recording to begin the piece, before Hayward comes in with his 12-string guitar to launch the compelling song itself he wrote when he was only 19. After the masterwork, the band received a long and enthusiastic standing ovation, with the Moodies obviously moved by the audience continuing to clap for a minute or so.
|Justin Hayward, left, and John Lodge on May 5.|
Photo: Robert Kinsler
As strong as the Moody Blues were at performing the symphonic rock that yielded their most iconic song, the band wasn't afraid to rock. “Steppin' in a Slide Zone” (played early in the set) and the night-ending “Ride My See-Saw” could have pleased the masses at Coachella with their fiery mix of British blues-rock, powerful rhythms and the one-two punch provided by Lodge and Hayward on bass and guitar. Even a rousing version of their 1969 song “Gypsy (Of a Strange and Distant Time)” had a contemporary edge with its propulsive beat positioned around its progressive rock foundation.
A night of classic and timeless rock to be sure.