Moody Blues prove you're never too old to rockPublished Tuesday September 20th, 2011
by alan cochrane
Times & transcript staff
Does playing music keep you feeling young?
For legendary drummer Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues, it would seem to be the case.
Appearing on stage with the band at the Moncton Coliseum Friday night, Mr. Edge proudly stated that he had celebrated his 70th birthday in March and was having a great time on tour with the band he helped form nearly 50 years ago.
Standing before a small but very appreciative crowd of about 2,000 people, Mr. Edge flashed a grin and the timeless two-fingered peace sign, joking that he had made it through the 60s twice - the first being the landmark decade of peace, love and grooviness, and the second time being his own voyage into the golden years of life.
"The first time, I had white teeth and this meant peace. Now I have porcelain teeth and this means Viagra," he joked. At the time when he was born, in 1941, the two-fingered gesture was being flashed by Winston Churchill as a V for victory as Britain was literally fighting for its own survival.
I have to admit that I was never a huge fan of the Moody Blues, other than knowing the biggest hits. So it was a real treat to see a band that traces its roots back to the very beginnings of the golden age of British rock and roll. The Moody Blues were formed in England in 1964, just as the first generation of new British stars like the Beatles and Rolling Stones were making history - and became one of Britain's best-known rock groups, right up there with The Animals, Procul Harum, Herman's Hermits, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
For two hours Friday night, the band rambled through an enjoyable set of their hits like Are You Sitting Comfortably, Tuesday Afternoon, I know you're Out There Somewhere, Your Wildest Dreams, Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band - and their best-known song, Nights in White Satin.
The band has been around for many years, but this was their first trip to Moncton.
The Moody Blues has long revolved around three key members of Graeme Edge on drums, Justin Hayward on guitars and lead vocals; and John Lodge on bass, guitar and vocals. The current lineup also includes a second drummer, two keyboard players and flautist Norda Mullen. With a seven-piece band, the Moody Blues are able to create a full and varied orchestral sound.
And they seemed to be having a great time. Mr. Edge was laughing and joking and got up to dance for a while, after playfully tossing drumsticks at the second drummer Gordon Marshall. It's always fun to see musicians having fun on tour.
At the heart of the music is the duo of Justin Hayward and John Lodge, who have been with the band since 1966. Mr. Hayward turns 65 next month and Mr. Lodge turned 68 earlier this year.
For me, it's always interesting and a treat to see older bands that have been around for decades and played a part in the evolution of popular music. Mr. Hayward, born in England right after the Second World War, started playing in skiffle groups and was influenced by American singers like Buddy Holly. Like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues soaked up the American music of their day, transformed it into their own sound and brought it back to North America. All those riffs and scales drift through the air like the spores of a dandelion, coming to rest in the strangest places and becoming parts of other songs. You can hear the influences of these early British bands in the pop songs of the 70s, 80s and today.
The story of Moody Blues flautist Norda Mullen is a bit of an example. She came from the southern U.S. and was a classically trained flautist with an ear for rock and roll.
As the story goes, her sister was having a party and she was too young to be invited to hang out with the big kids. So she sat in her parents' bedroom with her flute as the big kids kept playing the Moody Blues song Nights In White Satin on the record player down the hall. As the sound of the song reverberated through the walls, the young Ms. Mullen picked up her flute and played along with the solo, figuring it out by ear. And now, she gets to play it with the real band on stage every night. And yes, she nailed the flute solo tremendously. I've heard the song a million times on the radio, but nothing could ever come close to hearing and seeing it from a few metres away in a live concert hall.
That's the magic of live performances.
And the audience was certainly into it. As we sat watching the band, I could see Moncton fans dancing and swaying to the music, and rising with applause and standing ovations for nearly every song.
Yep, the Moody Blues show was another great concert memory for me. The only drawback was they didn't perform one of my favourites, Gemini Dream, a big hit from the '80s. Maybe next time.
So I was feeling a bit inspired after watching the Moody Blues on Saturday as our own band, DC Fundamentals performed at a charity event. The Jokes For Jacob event was organized by Scott Campagna of Riverview as a fund-raiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Mr. Campagna's four-year-old grandson has had several open heart surgeries and has received support from the foundation. The event at the Riverview Lions Club drew about 200 people and featured standup comedians Trevor Muxworthy, Eric Payne, Debra Steeves, Neal Mundle and Lloyd Ravn, along with music by Jeremy Reid and DC Fundamentals.
At the end of the night Mr. Campagna announced that close to $6,000 had been raised for the charity, which grants wishes for sick children.
And there'll be more music around Metro Moncton this weekend for the Touchdown Atlantic football game. The Lotto Max Touchdown Downtown Street Festival is a free event for all that runs Friday and Saturday on Moncton's Main Street with many interactive booths and demonstrations designed for the entire family. Free musical entertainment will run each evening from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. on the Lotto Max Mainstage.
Among the featured artists to take the stage will be Canadian Legends Kim Mitchell and Sloan. It'll be rockin!
* Alan Cochrane is an editor-at-large with the Times & Transcript. His column appears each Tuesday. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]http://timestranscript.ca.../opinion/article/1441323