Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann
The Moody Blues :: 05.17.11 :: Granada Theatre:: Santa Barbara, CA
In the late sixties and early seventies, attending a Moody Blues concert was an almost a mystical experience. The band offered up a unique blend of English classical music and Beach Boys-like harmonies in a rock mix reeking of psychedelic times. In fact, many fans in the audience back then were under some sort of drug induced hallucinogenic haze, much like an x-crowd at big electronic music festivals today. This fierce bonding created many fanatic fans for life enthralled by the unique qualities of the mysterious English rockers from Birmingham.
|The Moody Blues by L. Paul Mann|
By 1967, whenJustin Hayward and John Lodge joined the band, the trademark psychedelic sound was established with the release of the album Days of Future Past. By 1975, the first magical era of the band was over and the group took a long hiatus from playing. The band has reunited over the years with an ever-changing lineup, releasing new material here and there. The group has played periodically over the decades at the Santa Barbara Bowl with mixed results. Some shows seemed to be a bit bland, others, like the appearance with the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, more inspired.
Flash forward to the Granada Theatre, where a sold out crowd of mostly silver haired fans gathered in the most lavish venue in the history of Santa Barbara. With a high tech multimedia backdrop recreating the classic visuals of the psychedelic sixties, the band marched triumphantly onstage shortly after 8 pm for the first of two full sets of Moody Blues hits. The three veteran members remaining in the band are 70-year-old original drummer Graeme Edge, guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge, who were joined by talented new backing musicians. These included Norda Mullen (flute, guitar, vocals), Julie Ragins (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Alan Hewitt (keyboards), and Gordon Marshall (drums). The masterful younger musicians created rich layers of sound crucial to a faithful rendition of the vast Moody Blues catalog. But it was the enduring harmonies of the original three members that defined the concert.
The audience, many of whom seemed old enough to have witnessed the band in their early heyday, responded enthusiastically, periodically singing and dancing in the normally stoic aisles of the opulent opera house. Although the band played material from across the spectrum of their recording career, it was the 60s and 70s classics that stirred the biggest reaction from the crowd. The sleepy, sultry blues of “Tuesday Afternoon,” the psychedelic “Isn't Life Strange,” the up-tempo “Question” and iconic classic“Nights in White Satin” all garnered huge, positive reactions.
|Graeme Edge by L. Paul Mann|
The original “Edge” (before the guitarist for U2 claimed the moniker), the 70-year-old drummer seemed to be having happy flashbacks as he did the spoken word parts for several classic pieces. This included his trademark “Higher and Higher” section, which included what he termed “an old man Riverdance.”
The nearly three hour concert featured two sets and an encore of another enduring classic, “Ride My See Saw,” and seemed to be a truly joyous occasion throughout for the illustrious musicians as well as the aging crowd. All in all, it was one of the band’s longest, most passionate performances in their long history of playing in Santa Barbara. Precious few bands from the 1960s can still perform with the stamina The Moody Blues exhibited. It was truly a night of classic rock in its most historic sense.
The Voice, The Day We Meet Again, Steppin’ in a Slide Zone, Gypsy, Tuesday Afternoon, Lean On Me (Tonight), Meanwhile, Peak Hour, I Know You’re Out There Somewhere, The Story In Your Eyes, Your Wildest Dreams, Isn’t Life Strange, The Other Side of Life, Driftwood, Higher and Higher, Are You Sitting Comfortably?, I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band), Nights in White Satin, Question, (Encore): Ride My See Saw
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