Saturday, December 1, 2012

Moody Blues, Atlantic City NJ, Fri Nov 30, 2012

As has been well-documented here in the past, The Moody Blues are one of my favorite bands, if not my favorite band of all time. I have seen them more times live than any other band by far (at least a dozen times beginning in 1982 at the Spectrum; Rush and Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler are a very distant second at 3 times each if memory serves). We were sitting around our kitchen table with Anthony and Cathy one evening a few months back when I got an email notification that they were coming to Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City. Anthony said that they were a band that he had always wanted to see, and I said that given their ages he should see them sooner rather than later. Before the evening was over, much to my surprise (and pleasure), we had four tickets to the concert, a pair of hotel rooms, and plans to do an overnight trip to see them.

Consequently, by 3pm on Friday, brother Dave's Darling Wife was at my house to stay with the kids overnight, and the four of us were on the road to AC. We arrived at Caesar's at around 4:30 after a quick and uneventful drive, freshened up, and then wandered around the casino killing time before our 6:15 dinner reservation. We wandered through the gaming areas (most of which I find fascinating, but don't know the rules), checked out some of the shops, and settled in for a drink at a place next to the restaurant.

Dinner was at Buddakan, a Steven Starr asian fusion place, and it was absolutely fabulous. All four of us appreciate good food, and this was a meal to remember. We all agreed to try the chef's tasting menu, and out of the 4 appetizers, 4 entrees and 3 desserts, ten out of the eleven selections were fantastic. And the one that wasn't fantastic was still perfectly fine, just not memorable. Especially memorable were the edamame ravioli, the asian "caesar" salad, the king salmon and the horseradish crusted filet. Even the side dishes of wasabi mashed potatoes and grilled eggplant were out of this world (ok, make that 13 dishes not 11).

By the time dinner was over, it was time to make our way to the "Circus Maximus" theater for the concert. I was very excited, but also a little apprehensive, to be honest. My heroes were getting pretty well up there in years, and I was unsure as to how they would sound. Since this was Anthony and Cathy's first show with them, I hoped they'd sound good. The theater was small, perhaps a few thousand seats, and was completely sold out. By my count, we were in the 21st row, a little off to the left of center. Great seats. The band took the stage a few minutes after the 9pm show time, and launched into a setlist that, having researched it on the internet ahead of time, looked to be a greatest hits show (not surprisingly).

Having seen them the number of times that I have, there is a lot of live experience that I have to draw on by way of comparison, and my initial impression was that they sounded good from an instrumental standpoint, but that Justin Hayward's voice sounded strained. I don't know how to describe it exactly, but I just got the sense that he was struggling somewhat. I began to believe that this was true when they began to skip some songs compared to the expected setlist that I had written down from shows earlier in the week. One of the things about the Moodies is that they tend to be very predictable on tour, rarely straying from that tour's setlist on a night to night basis. If the prior shows' posted lists can be trusted, they ended up skipping 5 of the intended 20 songs, making for a fairly brief hour and a half show.

The exact setlist they did perform was (and you can bet the house on the accuracy of this...):

  1. Gemini Dream
  2. The Voice
  3. Steppin in a Slide Zone
  4. You and Me
  5. Tuesday Afternoon
  6. Peak Hour
  7. I Know You're Out There Somewhere
  8. The Story in Your Eyes
  9. Your Wildest Dreams
  10. Isn't Life Strange
  11. Higher and Higher
  12. I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)
  13. Late Lament / Nights in White Satin (actual YouTube performance video linked)
  14. Question (video the night before)
  15. (Encore) Ride My See Saw (video also the night before)

If the prior shows' setlists are to be believed, they dropped 3 songs between Tuesday Afternoon and Peak Hour (Gypsy (video from the night before), Nervous, and Say It With Love), as well as two songs later in the show (The Other Side of Life, and Driftwood). I have to admit, these drops disappointed me. Having seen the band as many times as I have, and taking into account the fact that they generally play a very similar list these days, it is the few nuggets from days gone by that they add in that are the special treats for me. For this show, I was looking forward to Gypsy, Nervous, and Driftwood. I hadn't heard any of these 3 songs live since the 1980's (as best I can remember), and hearing them again after all these years would have been the icing on this particular cake. Each of these, as they were skipped, was a tiny little dagger in the heart. Gypsy is a great up tempo song from the late '60's that has always been a favorite of mine, Nervous is a very good song from 1981's Long Distance Voyager album, and Driftwood is one of Hayward's best (but lesser known) love songs (from the "reunion" Octave album of the mid '70's). On the plus side, Peak Hour (1967) and You and Me (1972) were both old chestnuts that were a live first for me.

My overall impression of the concert, once I had some time to reflect, is that it was a good show. Not great by any means, but good. Anthony and Cathy said they loved it, which is also worth something. That being said, I had a hard time not comparing it to all the other shows I had seen from them before, and this made it hard not to feel a touch of melancholy. There were some songs where they sounded great (Nights in White Satin among others was certainly a highlight), but also some where they sounded more like a remembrance of what they have been. Perhaps this is unfair, but life, and the aging process, isn't fair.

Writing this reminds me of a couple of appropriate lines from Moodies songs. In the poem Late Lament, which leads into Nights in White Satin, Graeme Edge says "...senior citizens wish they were young...". And in Never Blame the Rainbows for the Rain, Hayward says "...the last whispered wish of age is to live it all again". Amen.

I should remind myself to see the glass as half full. Justin Hayward is 66, John Lodge is 67, and drummer Graeme Edge is 71. And they are still touring, sounding pretty good, and making me feel young. So there is something to be said for that. Something pretty important.

If they come around again, I'll be there...

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