Monday, August 07, 2006

Moody Blues deliver a wide-ranging night of music

Who knew the Moody Blues remain one of classic rock’s most powerful rock outfits? Performing before a near-capacity crowd at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on July 30, the band delivered amemorable concert featuring strong material pulled from across four decades. In a performance that outdistanced the combined efforts of a four act 1960s-themed bill that shared the same stage a week earlier (Vanilla Fudge,Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Starship and John Kay & Steppenwolf), the Moody Blues made a powerful case for an often-overlooked legacy across a gracious 19-song set that is the band’s only performance this summer. And fans of the group’s most recent collection, 2005’s “Lovely to See You: Live from the Greek,” were basically treated to that same set list here in Costa Mesa. The group (which features three long-time members, as well as four strong supporting members used this night) wasn’t afraid to rework original hits, notably when singer-guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist-singer John Lodge wanted to jam. While “Nights in White Satin” (off the group’s 1967 debut “Days of Future Passed”) remains their best-known album rock track, it was truly only one of a number of highlights. In concert, the group’s psychedelic-styled lush 1960s material (“Nights inWhite Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon”) blended well with 1970s rockers and more recent pop-styled material that led to a bona fide comeback for the Moody Blues in the1980s. Not many bands have strong material stretching across 40 years, and the Moody Blues didn’t waste that vast repertoire over the course of two hours on Sunday. And rather than just playing hits that mirrored the classic album versions, the seven-member troupe brought urgency to many of the songs. “Tuesday Afternoon” was enhanced by Hayward’s finger-picking style and the support from Norda Mullen on flute.The Moody Blues broke the show into two parts, with each half featuring folk-styled rock and more upbeat rockers. “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone,” “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” and “The Story in Your Eyes”showcased the band’s natural rock instincts in the first half, while the beautiful “Lean on Me (Tonight)” featured Lodge’s emotive vocals in a setting that showcased the group’s ability to connect with an audience in quieter moments. But truly, the Moody Blues really took off when they delivered a second set. Hayward remains a virtuoso and expressive guitarist, and his skills on the frets were showcased during a muscular “I’m Just A Singer (in aRock and Roll Band)” and again during an extended “Ride My Seesaw” that had everyone in the theater on their feet. And while the haunting “Nights in White Satin” was understandably effective with Hayward’s voice soaring, more recent material (notably the beautiful “DecemberSnow”) was just as thrilling.

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