The Moody Blues Launch Their 2010 Tour at Ruth Eckerd Hall

Jeff O'Kelley

The Moody Blues kicked off their U.S. tour this past Thursday night with a sold-out performance at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall. Singer/guitarist Justin Hayward, bassist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge rounded out the roster of original members who anchored the stage and they were joined by an extremely talented backing band that included Julie Ragins on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals, second keyboardist Paul Bliss, second drummer Gordon Marshall and the energetic Norda Mullen on guitar, flute, harmonica, tambourine and backing vocals. Together, they put on an entertaining performance that faithfully represented the legendary Moody Blues sound for an appreciative audience.

As with nearly any band, the first night of a new tour can be a bit bumpy. Although the first few songs seemed to get off to a slow, tentative start, by the time they launched into “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” the cobwebs had been cleared away and the set was starting to gain momentum. When they launched into “The Story in Your Eyes” next, the audience was on its feet and really starting to get down when, with nary word, the band walked off stage and a 20-minute intermission was announced. This seemed a bit strange, since it had only been approximately 50 minutes since the concert had began.

The second set began with the ’80s hit, “Your Wildest Dreams” followed by “Isn’t Life Strange” and “The Other Side of Life.” Edge then took center stage from behind the drumkit to discuss the inspiration for his song “Higher and Higher,” as well as to announce that he would soon be turning 69 years old. He remarked that it really didn’t bother him because 69 has always been his favorite number, which drew a round of applause from the audience. He went on to hold up two fingers in the shape of a peace sign and said “In the ’60s this meant peace, now it stands for Viagra. It doesn’t really matter that the drug of choice has changed because it’s still sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.” The audience responded with a standing ovation.

The set continued with “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock ‘n Roll Band” and “Are You Sitting Comfortably,” but it was the bands signature tune, “Nights in White Satin,” that drew the biggest reaction from the crowd, their appreciation revealed in a nearly 10-minute standing ovation.

While short first set and unexpected intermission was a bit of a disappointment, overall, The Moody Blues gave their audience exactly what they’d paid to experience and everyone I encountered afterward told me they enjoyed the show. Classic rock bands are often locked into playing only the hits that made them famous, unable to convince their fans that new music is a good thing. Although this might also be the case with The Moody Blues, their catalog of hit songs seems to be extensive enough to keep the band and their fans plenty happy.

If you missed last night’s show, you might be in luck. The band’s website lists a number of Florida dates scheduled for the coming weeks, including stops in Ft. Meyers, Orlando, Miami, Sarasota, Melbourne, St. Augustine and Jacksonville. Perhaps The Moody Blues is working towards the title of “snowbird band.”

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