Moody Blues @ The Apollo
The Moody Blues are celebrating 51 years as a band at The Apollo tonight, albeit only one of the members on stage is from the original line-up. Regardless, it is still a remarkable achievement with perhaps only Status Quo and the Rolling Stones and maybe one or two other bands in a similar position, so the Moody’s really are rock royalty.
Tonight’s show comprises of material taken from 13 of their 16 albums and as per other tours in recent years this is another “best of” performance representing their journey from popsters through psychedelia, being a major Prog act, then though to their late 80’s electronic pop.
It should also be borne in mind that the band haven’t released any new material since the less than stellar Christmas themed album, December, back in 2003 (and thankfully there was nothing played from that album this evening). However, back in November 2014 the band did release a substantial box set, The Polydor Years: 1986-1992, a 6 CD/2 DVD set that also included a 7” single. And this tour, the Timeless Flight Tour, is basically to promote that package.
The band launched straight into Gemini Dream, The Voice and Steppin In A Slide Zone and they set the pace with bassist john Lodge acting and looking every inch the rock star. This was followed by You And Me providing the classic Moody Blues sound.
Drummer Graeme Edge, the only original member of the band plays very causally (he was 74 on 30th March), sometimes only partially drumming during songs so the band is augmented with another drummer, Gordon Marshall. Additionally the band has extra musicians to supplement their sound with Norda Mullen on flute, Julie Ragins on keyboards and sax, and Allan Hewitt on keyboards – after the Patrick Moraz affair in the early 90’s the band decided not to hire a replacement but just to rely on additional musicians.
Justin Haywood’s voice is still in fine form considering his age, especially on Say It With Love. The band then took us on a journey back to the psychedelic 60’s with Peak Hour complete with hallucinogenic videos on the screens at the back! The pure pop of I Know You Are Out There Somewhere started to get the crowd on their feet and clapping along followed by the straight ahead rock of The Story In Your Eyes with Haywood letting rip on his trademark red Gibson ES-335.
After a 20 minute comfort break for the audience, most of whom were considerably older than me and looked like they needed it, the band rocked back onto the stage with Your Wildest Dreams followed by the hugely symphonic Isn’t Life Strange and then it was back to the 60’s again with Tuesday Afternoon. Drummer Edge took to the microphone to sing Higher And Higher, a song inspired by Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, which is a heady mix of psychedelic and symphonic rock which saw him moving rather sprightly around the stage, belying his advancing years.
Driftwood from the album Octave, a quieter, more reflective piece, gave Edge the chance to have a rest and catch his breath and was a complete contrast to the previous song. But the band returned to uptempo material with the rock anthem I Am Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band, a song written as the anti-thesis to all the people who were dissecting their lyrics and giving them higher meanings, the band were simply saying they were just songs, nothing more.
Late Lament segued into the classic Nights In White Satin, which initially was barely recognisable until Haywood’s singing started. The song remains as beautifully haunting as it was when they first recorded it. Last song of the set was another rock anthem Question before they quickly returned for the encore with another slice of 60’s psychedelic pop and rock that made them famous, Ride My See-Saw.
It had been a long time since I last saw the Moody’s, 1981 I think, and to be honest I was not expecting great things from this evening. However, not only was it a fantastic performance of a good selection of their songs, but also to see they were still able to deliver the goods even in their advancing years…bus pass anyone?
Words: Anthony Firmin | Photos: Phil Goddard