The Moody Blues brought their ‘Precious Cargo’ cross-Canada tour to Winnipeg’s Pantages Playhouse Theatre last night (9/30/11), enlivening the old vaudeville stage with their unique brand of laidback progressive rock.
Still performing with its core creative team of lead singer/guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge who joined upon the released of their groundbreaking 1967 album “Days of Future Passed,” along with drummer Graeme Edge who was a founding member of the Moodys back in their 1964 “Go Now” hitmaking days, they are one of few former superstar groups of the 60’s and early 70’s touring with their membership still largely intact.
The band was making its 4th stop in Winnipeg since 2003, but the fans received them as if they hadn’t played here in 20 years. They received a standing ovation from the near capacity crowd just for showing up (a pattern that would be repeated regularly throughout the night, particularly from the fans up front).
Hayward, dressed all in white, and Lodge in sharp contrast in a black tee and black leather pants, remain the focal points on stage. Both exude a youthful vitality, which belies their 45-year tenure with the band.
Listening to their music has always been a bit like putting on a favourite pair of slippers, yet the songs, and the arrangements have a vitality and emotional significance that seem to transcend period, place or time.
The “old slipper” feeling was immediately reinforced as The Moodys launched into their standard set opener, the 2nd single off of 1981’s Long Distance Voyager, “The Voice,” complete with dry ice, flashing lights, a jumbotron flashing picture collages of the band back in their heyday, 60’s psychedelic images, and Hayward’s immediately recognizable lead vocals.
Hayward followed with the 1978 Octave track “The Day We Meet Again,” before handing lead vocal duties over to Lodge.
Acoustics at Pantages were quite good, and the intimate theatre setting gave the fans and the band a good opportunity to interact. Lodge, who still projects a rock star aura, is particularly good at working the crowd, and he soon had the crowd clapping and grooving as he preened and strutted his way through his self-penned 1978 hit single “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone.”
The Moodys have always had one of the biggest sounds around, which they achieve with the help of their ace backing band, which features the talents of Norda Mullen on flute/acoustic guitar/harmony vocals, Gordon Marshall who adds extra sock on drums and percussion, along with Alan Hewitt and Julie Ragins on keyboards, acoustic guitar, harmony vocals and synth.
Their set list remained pretty much verbatim to its last visit in August 2009, with the exception of adding “Meanwhile” and dropping the On the Threshold of a Dream single “Never Comes the Day.” It continues to feature a combination of classic hits such as Hayward’s 1967 Days of Future Past hit “Tuesday Afternoon,” with deep cuts such as Lodge’s 1991 Keys of the Kingdom track “Lean on Me.”
The 1st set before intermission, wrapped up with the 1-2 punch of Hayward’s 1988 Sur La Mer hit “I Know You’re Out There” followed by the 1971 Every Good Boy Deserves Favor hit “The Story in Your Eyes,” which earned the band back to back standing ovations.
The 2nd set opened with Hayward’s 1986 The Other Side of Life hit “Wildest Dreams” followed by the dynamic 1972 Seventh Sojourn vocal duet with Lodge “Isn’t Life Strange,” as well as hit title track of The Other Side of Life, complete with 80’s video footage flashed on the jumbotron.
Next came Hayward’s acoustic rendering of “Driftwood,” which featured a fine flute solo from Mullen.
Crowd favourites included, Edge’s entertaining and spirited spin at the mike performing his poetic reading of the opening track from 1969’s To Our Children’s Children ” Higher and Higher,” which nabbed him a huge standing ovation.
Edge informed the audience that he’d recently turned 70-years old, “I gone through the 60s twice. The first time, my hair was brown and my teeth were white. The 2nd time, my hair was white and my teeth were brown.”
In the home stretch, the band went with the tried and true, which included Lodge’s Seventh Sojourn anthem “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band,” Hayward’s hauntingly exquisite Days of Future Passed hit ballad “Nights in White Satin” and ending with Hayward exchanging his red electric Gibson ES 335 for his 12 string acoustic to perform the 1970 Question of Balance hit – “Question.”
After performing their encore number, the 1968 In Search of a Lost Chord hit “Ride My See Saw,” Lodge thanked the fans for “keeping the faith.”
I suspect as long as The Moody Blues are willing and able to continue performing, Winnipeg fans will do just that. To quote Winnipeg’s own Neil Young “Long May You Run.”