BETHLEHEM, PA—The Sands Event Center was buzzing. It was almost surprising how enthusiastic the crowd was when the PA announcer introduced drummer Graeme Edge, 76, bassist John Lodge, 72, and guitarist Justin Hayward, 70, individually. As the three longtime members of the Moody Blues casually strode to their spots, the din of the crowd kept rising. Backed by two keyboards, flute, saxophone and second drummer, they hard-rocked it (!) to the tune of “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock ‘N’ Roll Band” (a fittingly rousing start for such an eager crowd) and “Isn’t Life Strange,” both off 1972’s Seventh Sojourn.
For the next solid hour, they revisited “The Story In Your Eyes” from 1971’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, “Steppin’ In A Slide Zone” from 1978’s Octave, “Nervous” from 1981’s Long Distance Voyager, “Your Wildest Dreams” from 1986’s The Other Side Of Life and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” from 1988’s Sur La Mer. With Hayward and Lodge alternating lead vocals and harmonizing beautifully (both still have strong voices), the sound was not unlike that of Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra.
After a short intermission, they came back with what everybody wanted to experience: the first time ever live show of the entire Days Of Future Passed album from 1967 for its 50th Anniversary. Aided by an orchestral score on tape, with the help of stately British actor Jeremy Irons on-screen reciting the two hippie-dippie Edge poems that back in the day, we all pontificated about as to their meaning, the songs flew by in a psychedelic haze of clouds, ocean, London hustle-bustle and early incarnations of the band as seen on a giant screen behind them.
The 16-year-old me hears “Nights In White Satin” for the first time on one of the first of the free-form FM rock stations WOR with DJ Scott Muni and it blows my mind. We pool our pennies and run out to the Belmont Record Shop on Bloomfield Avenue in Newark, bicycle home, fire up the hookah, and, amidst the bubbling water of the bong, we lie on the floor and let it all sink in. It’s pretty heady stuff for teenagers who think of themselves as so tragically hip that we temporarily forget about our previous discoveries of the Beacon Street Union, Serpent Power, The 13th Floor Elevators, Blues Magoos, Pink Floyd and Creedence Clearwater Revival (thank you, Scott Muni).
Sure, Days Of Future Passed was one of the great ‘60s albums, a fusion of classical and rock like never before. Yet when we went to buy its follow-up, 1968’s In Search Of The Lost Chord, we felt they immediately lost their mojo and we only liked two songs, “Ride My See-Saw” and “Legend Of A Mind” (with the line “Timothy Leary’s Dead”). Still, we took a chance on their next album, 1969’s On The Threshold Of A Dream, and there wasn’t even one song we liked. We’ve ignored them ever since.
It’s not like they’re such great musicians or write such great songs, it’s just that this one album is part of our DNA, thus the night was more nostalgic than musical. Still, “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin” are good enough to totally swoon over a half-century later. Randy Newman might have been mean as all hell in 1999 when he wrote “I’m Dead But I Don’t Know It” with the Moodies in mind, but he sure was hilarious.
Upcoming at the Sands: Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie Aug. 11, Bush Aug. 12, Vicki Lawrence Aug. 24, Gabriel Iglesias Aug. 31, Diana Ross Sept. 3, Tom Jones Sept. 6, Willie Nelson Sept. 12 and Tony Bennett Sept. 22.