Moody Blues revel in musical journey
Retrospective tour takes fans along for the ride
John Lodge doesn’t hesitate when asked about his favorite part of performing live.
“As soon as we get announced and we go on stage. As soon as they say ‘Moody Blues,’ that’s it, you’re on,” he said in a phone interview before a Minneapolis concert last week. “For me, that’s really what it’s about.”
Lodge, 68, has been hearing that for the better part of five decades as the bassist for the pioneering British prog-rock group. He’ll hear it again Friday when he and his bandmates take the stage at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, reprising their visit two years ago.
Lodge, guitarist Justin Hayward and drummer Graeme Edge are joined by a second percussionist, keyboard player, flutist and background singer for a multimedia show that features three video screens.
“Some of it is retrospective, showing photographs of us over the years, through different times and different albums,” he said. “There are a few ’60s sort of magic oils going on, psychedelic stuff.”
Musically, the set list spans the group’s 35-year recording career, which essentially is a tale of two Moodies. Starting in 1967 with the groundbreaking orchestral concept piece “Days of Future Passed” – which saw Lodge and Hayward join founding member Edge – the band produced a string of seven acclaimed albums over six years. Lodge contributed such hit tunes as “Ride My See-Saw,” “Isn’t Life Strange” and “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band).”
Overwhelmed by the pressures of success, the group went on hiatus starting in 1973 while its members pursued solo projects. They reunited in 1978 for a second go-round that led to 1981’s chart-topping “Long Distance Voyager,” and another Top 10 album and single in 1986 with “The Other Side of Life” and its song “Your Wildest Dreams.”
Lodge said “Days of Future Passed” is a particular focus of the current set list. “We spend a lot of time making sure, we hope, that every song is in the right order and the songs we’ve chosen are the right ones for that tour,” he said.
“It’s just like an album, really. Once you play an album, if it’s an album you love, you want to play it again, and that’s what we try to do with our concert. We want the audience to be taken on the journey and at the end of it, hopefully, when they leave they’ve got a fantastic memory of that concert, and they’ll come back and see us next time.”
A big part of that, Lodge said, is staying faithful to the familiar arrangements of each song.
“Every tour we go back to the original records and listen to those to make sure we haven’t deviated too much,” he said. “The most important thing for me is not to impair the listener’s memory of that song. I want the person who bought that record to be able to relive that time.”
It’s something he never tires of himself. “All the songs are our own, and they’re very precious to us,” he said. “If we ever felt as though it was getting old, then it would be time to say, ‘Hey, let’s go.’ ”
There’s no chance of that anytime soon. Next year’s tour dates already are mapped out, Lodge said, including a second cruise with fans in early April.
When the band embarked on its maiden voyage last March, he said, “We weren’t too sure what it was going to be like, to be honest, but it turned out to be like a floating music festival. It really was a great experience.”
Next year’s sailing is loosely themed around the legendary 1970 Isle of Wight festival off the English coast. It will feature other performers from that time, including Roger Daltrey, frontman for The Who.
“Somebody actually thought we were sailing around the Isle of Wight,” Lodge said. “We’re not sailing around the Isle of Wight, we’re going from Miami to the Caribbean.”
Wherever the road, or sea, might take him, Lodge is just happy to have the opportunity.
“I enjoy playing music,” he said. “It’s what I’ve done since I was really young, so it’s part of me. There’s always another concert, hopefully.”