Thursday, August 14, 2008

Revisiting the Moody Blues - The Greek Theatre Video

When it comes to musicians I would give my eye teeth to be in the audience for, aside from Renaissance, the other band that I have made a special effort [all other things being equal] to see in concert is the Moody Blues. After all, they were the progenitors of the 'concept album' form [before the Alan Parsons Project], used a wonderful machine called the Mellotron to fill in where a string section or reeds would be, had lyrics that expressed not just the universal feelings of love and angst, but also got a few of us to actually THINK about the human condition. And their stage precence was more or less a celebration, even of the album they were touring behind was not completely up to snuff by commercial standards.

So while looking around the other night, I saw that someone had uploaded a copy of the Moodies at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and me being the geekette I am, it was downloaded in anticipation of this being the show which had some older chestnuts but some new material from the 'December' album'. While it does, it seems this is the abbreviated version that the HD Net aired, the original being called 'Lovely to See You Live' . This was more or less a continuation of the previous tour, the first one that Ray Thomas, the flautist was not present for since he retired. However, the person Justin, John and Graeme found to take his stead was and is more than up to the task, that being Norda Mullen. And she does deliver, if only due to her being a multi-instrumentalist...guitar as well as flute.

Seeing that this was similar to the concert I was present at, the opening piece me going, even from the comfort of the living room couch. 'Lovely to See You', the opener sets the tone and shows that at this stage of their career that they really are becoming a little more relaxed. Much like the show I went to, they played for themselves and for those fans who really wanted to be out there to sing along, to dance and to experience what has stood the test of time. ' The Voice', 'The Other Side of Life' sound as good here as they did in person, but the editing did leave some songs to be desired. And this is what I missed, even with repeated viewings. Such as 'Tuesday Afternoon', 'The Actor', 'Are You Sitting Comfortably'...those are missing. Under further review, one can see why this video is missing them in that there were time constraints. Keep in mind though there are some major highlights which brought back that evening to me.

For one, no matter which song Norda was featured on, she excelled. Her style is different than Ray's but to hear her and to see how she plays with such ease and style is spellbinding. Case in point: 'December Snow' which has her haunting flute as the counterpoint to Justin's romantic, plaintive lyrics and voice. If there has been one selling point to me as far as why I am still a fan of theirs, it is Justin....whose voice is soothing even on a rocker and whose lead guitar, even on a bad day is better than most when they are firing with afrerburners. Be it on 'Higher and Higher' or 'I'm Just A Singer In a Rock and Roll Band'.

The finale is a tad on the bittersweet side if only because the standard close has one tune missing. As many of you know, the standard close for their shows are/is: 'Nights In white Satin', 'Legend of A Mind', 'Question' and 'Ride My See-Saw'. 'Nights' in this case is only missing the orchestra from the last 2 tours, but the two keyboardists more than make up for it and as for the flute bridge...Norda is beyond words. Close your eyes and you will not hear a difference in the mind's eye between her performance and that of Ray Thomas. Granted she looks better in a dress, but that is besides the point...there is no real differencce othewise.

Much like the show I was at, 'Ride My See-Saw' is the raucous end to the show. If one does have a wishlist for this concert, it would have been for this to have an orchestra, due to the fact that this piece is somewhat forceful and playful at the same time. From John's countdown to Graeme being the madman on the drums to Justin ripping on the Strat... this almost begs for additional backup to give this the feeling of a rock version of the end of the 1812 Overture. Granted this may be due to the fact that I have been spoiled in seeing this done with the Spokane Symphony, the combined Minnesota/ St Paul Chamber Orchestra and members of the Oregon Symphony on several of the last few tours.

When viewing this concert over several nights, it did take me back to seeing what was a slightly different Moody Blues, a more relaxed in some ways Moody Blues. It was not a matter of Ray being out and plugging Norda in, not a matter of using emulators and sequencers to replace a full piece orchestra...but in this case, it was that they have now reached a stage where they can and do play their hearts out for their fans. That actually becomes more important than going through the motions for commercial sake.....and let's be honest, if they were commercial - their loyal fanbase would not be there. As such, their fanbase is really who this performance is geared towards...along with those who have been introduced to them as John Lodge says '...along the journey of our lives...' If only other bands would 'Keep the Faith' and the Moodies have all these years.

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