Moody Blues take a Midland crowd on a wistful journey back in time

10/16/2013 8:52 PM

10/16/2013 8:52 PM

Not long after he and his band had returned to the stage after their halftime break, Graeme Edge, drummer and founding member of the Moody Blues, took center stage and delivered a few one-liners about his age and, implicitly, the age of the crowd before him.

Edge, who turned 72 in March, wisecracked that he’d survived the ’60s twice, the other being the decade that produced three of his band’s most successful albums. Then he told a gratuitous Viagra joke. It was all in good humor and taken as such. But it had a point.

The Moody Blues are almost 50 years old. So are some of their best-known songs. Monday night, they sold out the Midland theater and spent almost two hours, including a 20-minute intermission, performing some of the most popular and durable songs for a crowd that was geared up to hear them yet again.

The Blues these days are a threesome: Edge; singer, songwriter and guitarist Justin Hayward; and bassist John Lodge. Live, they get substantial fortification from four backup musicians: Norda Mullen on guitar, flute and vocals; Alan Hewitt on keyboards and vocals; Julie Ragins on keyboard, saxophone and vocals; and Gordon Marshall, who gave Edge some beefy support on drums.

Behind them, three video screens broadcast primitive graphics and period portraits of the band and some of its concert posters.

They opened the set with music from its late-’70s, early-’80s era: songs such as “Gemini Dream,” “The Voice” and “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone,” which included Mullen’s first flute accompaniment of the night.

Of the three remaining members, Hayward is the youngest — he turned 67 Monday evening — and is the one who has sustained most of his skills, including his voice but especially on guitar. Throughout the show, songs were delivered much like the way they were recorded and are remembered, down to his trademark solos, which are as artful as they are tasteful.

The first set ended with one of their earliest hits, an uptempo version of the rollicking “The Story in Your Eyes.” That song, as much as any, exemplifies the Blues’ sound: a blend of slightly cosmic folk, pop and light rock that is lacquered with layers of harmonies and propelled by lots of rhythm guitar. It’s music that trumps the lyrics, which are typically shallow musings rendered in watercolors and pastels.

The second set showcased more of the Blues’ best-known material, which inflamed the air of nostalgia in the room. There was plenty of singing along and dancing all night, but especially during the melodramatic performance of “Isn’t Love Strange,” and then “Tuesday Afternoon,” which was embellished by a sax solo from Ragins.

Before “Nights in White Satin,” Edge came out and recited “Late Lament,” sounding a lot like Boris Karloff in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Then came “Nights in White Satin,” which felt extra orchestral, thanks to the double keyboard arrangement. They took a bow after that but returned to deliver one more favorite: the jaunty folk anthem “Ride My See-Saw.” It was an apt ending to a show that was a warm, wistful ride back in time by way of music that has aged surprisingly well.

Set list

Gemini Dream; The Voice; Steppin’ in a Slide Zone; You and Me; Nervous; Peak Hour; I Know You’re Out There Somewhere; The Story in Your Eyes; intermission; Your Wildest Dreams; Isn’t Love Strange; Higher and Higher; Tuesday Afternoon; Late Lament/Nights in White Satin.

Encore: Ride My See-Saw.

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