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Concert review: Moody Blues take Mesa audience higher and higher

Perhaps after forty five years it’s time to update the words to Graeme Edge’s poem, “Late Lament” found on the Moody Blues’ 1967 album “Days of Future Past.” When the 71 year old drummer of the Moody Blues recited the line “senior citizens wish they were young,” during the Moody Blues performance at the Mesa Arts Center on Thursday night, December 13, 2012 in Mesa, it would have been more appropriate for him to have said “senior citizens still acting young.”

Edge, along with Moody Blues’ 66 year old guitarist Justin Hayward and 67 year old bass player John Lodge, plus the majority of those in attendance easily qualify for AARP membership. But despite Edge joking that his brown hair, white teeth and “V” sign for peace have now become white hair, brown teeth and “V” for Viagra, there was nothing old about this performance. The Moody Blues, both the band members and their music, seem ageless.

Lodge greeted the crowd with “long time, no see” from “Gemini Dream” the first of two songs, along with “The Voice,” taken from the Moodies’ 1981 album “Long Distance Voyager,” which opened the show. Dressed in all black, Lodge still retained the rock star image, walking the stage, interacting with other band members and playing his bass in an upright position to show off his skills.

In contrast, Hayward, dressed in all white, the yang to Lodge’s yin, was content to take his place at the mic for his vocals and step back slightly for his guitar solos. The interesting thing about Hayward’s guitar work is that he makes it look so easy. Watching him, unlike some of his lead guitar peers, it doesn’t look as if he is straining to work his Gibson ES-335. However, listening to him play the solo on songs such as “You and Me,” tell you another story. The sounds Hayward can coax out of his guitar sneak up on you.

This is true of the Moody Blues in general, their ability sneaks up on you. Lodge, Hayward and Edge are never mentioned either as instrumentalists or vocalists in any “best of” list. Yet as a whole, they sound phenomenal. Half of the evening’s set list came from Moody Blues’ albums from 1972 or earlier. Still the songs seemed fresh. This is a testament to great songwriting and the chemistry Lodge and Hayward create.

It doesn’t hurt to have hired some talented help as well. When Ray Thomas retired from the band in 2002, flautist, vocalist, Norda Mullen was brought in. Her flute solos received several standing ovations throughout the evening. Julie Ragins complemented the songs nicely with her saxophone and keyboard work. Alan Hewitt, now serving as the group’s keyboard specialist, brought to life an important part of the Moody Blues’ sound. Long time Moodies’ drummer, Gordon Marshall, along with Edge, provided richness to the music.

There was plenty of youthful enthusiasm to up-tempo rockers such as “Peak Hour,” “The Story In Your Eyes,” I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band),” “Question,” and “Ride My See-Saw.” The latter two songs brought the entire audience, which had remained seated most of the night, to their feet.

Yin and yang exist as well in the catalog of Moody Blues songs and interspersed between the rockers were slower numbers such as “Isn’t Life Strange” and “Driftwood.” Lodge’s voice seemed to improve throughout the night and he was stellar on “Isn’t Life Strange.” Heywood was equally good on “Driftwood.”

Edge was able crawl from behind his kit and take center stage for his moon landing inspired song, “Higher and Higher.” It was difficult to decide which was more of a fan favorite, his joke telling, his singing or his dance moves.

No Moody Blues concert would be complete without the obligatory “Nights in White Satin.” But no matter how many times you may have heard that song played, it remains as beautiful and powerful as when you first heard it. Given the long ovation the song received at its conclusion, those in attendance would seem to agree.

With their combined two, one hour sets, the Moody Blues reminded those in the crowd that some music, even if forty five years old, can remain unaffected by time. If the Moody Blues’ “the Voyage Continues,” tag line is accurate, it’s possible that even our children’s children’s children may get to discover that as well.

Set List:
Set One: Gemini Dream | The Voice | Steppin’ in a Slide Zone | You and Me | Tuesday Afternoon | Gypsy | Nervous |Say It With Love | Peak Hour | I Know You’re Out There Somewhere | The Story In Your Eyes

Set Two: Your Wildest Dreams | Isn’t Life Strange | Higher and Higher | Driftwood | I’m Just A Singer ( In a Rock and Roll Band) | Late Lament | Nights In White Satin | Question

Encore: Ride My See-Saw

Article By: from Mesa Classic Rock Music Examiner

Photo credit: Becky Hansen

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