The Moody Blues

May 5, 2015
Greek Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Review by Shawn Perry

I think most rock fans would agree there’s something criminally unsound about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the process in which they decide who gets inducted into their exclusive club.  It seems the selection committee is more inclined to vote in artists that move product and make fashion statements over how musically innovative and pioneering they are. Otherwise, the Moody Blues would have been in the first year of their eligibility. From introducing the Mellotron to rock, to integrating orchestras into their sound, to writing and recording some of the most beloved songs of the last 50 years — the Magnificent Moodies are a rock and roll institution. And even though the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame refuses to acknowledge their contributions to music, everyone who came to the Greek to see the Moody Blues savored every note and nuance.

There was no opening band, just an evening of the Moody Blues for two sets with an intermission in between. With so much material to draw from, this is one band that doesn’t need an opening act. So at 8:15, guitarist Justin Hayward, bassist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge (the band’s sole original member) were joined on the Greek stage by keyboardist Alan Hewitt, multi-instrumentalist Julie Ragins, flautist Norda Mullen and second drummer Gordon Marshall. They opened with two strong numbers from 1981’s Long Distance Voyager — “Gemini Dream” and “The Voice,” which could have used the pizzazz of Patrick Moraz’s keyboards. Nevertheless, the three-panel video backdrop flashed with colorful images, as it would all night, and the band fell into a groove.

There’s this perception that a Moody Blues concert is a mellow, laid-back affair for the Geritol crowd, and nothing could be further from the truth. OK, the majority of the audience has probably received an AARP card in the mail, but this band knows how to rock when the moment calls for it. “You And Me,” a deep cut from Seventh Sojourn, opened with Hayward’s angular guitar as Lodge, Edge and Marshall balanced the rhythm. “I'm Just A Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band),” “Question” and the encore “Ride My See-Saw” were equally efficacious in validating the Moodies’ ability to get people on their feet.

It’s easy to understand how the easy listening ebb and flow of “I Know You're Out There  Somewhere” and “Your Wildest Dreams” might lull the little ones to sleep, although those songs underscore the Moody Blues’ agility in adapting to the 1980s when many of their peers had either faded away or struggled for relevance. Putting it all in perspective, Edge stepped up to the front of the stage before launching into “Higher And Higher” and announced that the Moody Blues celebrated their 51st anniversary on May 2. Yet another reason to ponder their absence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It was during the second set that the psychedelic leanings of the Moody Blues came to the fore. We’re talking about songs like “Isn’t Life Strange,” “Tuesday Afternoon” and the immortal “Nights In White Satin.” The video screens lit up with a flood of photos, film clips and handbills exemplifying the band’s vast history. Hard to believe they played on bills with the Beatles and the Kinks. Once again, this shows just how out of touch the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is with the band’s legacy.

Just as the Moodies were hitting their stride, the show was over. There are so many songs they could have played — “Legend Of A Mind,” “The Actor,” “Lovely To See You,” and maybe even their first hit “Go Now” to remind everyone of their roots. Without Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder in the lineup, a lot of material from the classic seven albums of the late 60s and 70s is no longer on the setlist. An induction into the Rock and Roll of Hall of Fame could bring Hayward, Lodge, Edge, Thomas and Pinder back together. Of course, as the clock ticks and the politics continue, the likelihood of a reunion like that fades. Thankfully, the Moody Blues of today are keeping the dream alive.

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