The Moody Blues: Lovely to See You
Directed By: Ron Andreassen
Starring: Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Graeme Edge
Recorded live at The Greek Theater in Los Angeles, California in the summer of 2005, "Lovely to See You" presents a concert by the Moody Blues. The band has been together in one form or another since 1964, although drummer Graeme Edge is the only remaining member from their original line-up. The line-up responsible for most of their best known material solidified in 1966 when Justin Hayward and John Lodge joined the band and they began mixing orchestral and psychedelic elements into their repertoire. At the time this concert was recorded, they had been active as a recording and touring outfit for over 40 years with only a couple of extended hiatuses, and as of this writing, they are still touring regularly. On a personal note, my first ever rock concert was a Moody Blues show at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan on my 15th birthday in 1983. While I would not say they are my favorite band of all time, and even on that night I thought they were outshone by their opening act (a young and hungry Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble), I have had a soft spot for them ever since.
This concert comes from the first US tour the band undertook after the retirement of original member Ray Thomas. This was the most significant line-up change the band had endured since the departure of founding member Mike Pinder in 1978, as both Hayward and Pinder were active songwriters. Pinder was initially replaced with a permanent keyboard player, Patrick Moraz, but when Moraz left in the mid-1980s, they supplemented their touring line-up with a larger group of musicians. They continue the latter approach in the wake of Thomas' exit. For this show, the core of Hayward (guitar, vocals), Lodge (bass, guitar, vocals) and Edge (drums, vocals) is supplemented by Gordon Marshall (Drums, Flute, Keyboard), Paul Bliss (Keyboards, Guitar), Norda Mullen (Flute, Vocals, Guitar), and Bernedette Barlow (Vocals, Keyboards). Marshall and Bliss have been performing with the band live for quite some time while Mullen and Barlow are new additions to the line-up. While the band has understandably dropped Ray Thomas material such as perennial live favorite "Legend of a Mind" from their set-list, his flute and vocal contributions are otherwise ably compensated for by Mullen.
This also marks the first concert release by the band since the 1970s that does not have them accompanied by a live orchestra, and as such allows them to rock out a bit more than usual. While the Moodies will never be a head-bangers favorite, they fare well on the up-tempo numbers that give underrated guitarist Hayward a chance to stretch out such as Graeme Edge's featured number "Higher and Higher" and the closing run through "Ride My See-Saw". While John Lodge's voice has gotten a bit rougher over the years, Justin Hayward remains in particularly strong voice, actually seeming to get better and better as the concert progresses.
As has been the case for several years, the set-list leans heavily on classic material from the band's first two decades, with only two songs recorded since their last run of hits in the 1980s: John Lodge's "Lean on Me (Tonight)" from 1991's Keys to the Kingdom and Justin Hayward's "December Snow" from their then-current holiday-themed album December. I actually found the latter to be a surprise highlight, but your mileage may vary. The biggest treat in the set-list for longtime fans is probably the ballad "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" which had not been given the live treatment for several years, and proves to be a particular highlight for flautist Mullen.
The complete set-list is as follows:
- Lovely to See You
- Tuesday Afternoon
- Lean on Me (Tonight)
- The Actor
- Steppin' in a Slide Zone
- The Voice
- Talking out of Turn
- I Know You're out There Somewhere
- The Story in Your Eyes
- Forever Autumn
- Your Wildest Dreams
- Isn't Life Strange
- The Other Side of Life
- December Snow
- Higher and Higher
- Are You Sitting Comfortably
- I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock & Roll Band)
- Nights in White Satin
- Ride My See Saw
The video is presented in a 1080i AVC encoded transfer that is more than up to the task. Presumably shot in 1080i HD video, most of the pitfalls of shooting concerts in that format are deftly avoided. "Hot spots" of blown out contrast are negligible despite the stage lighting, and I noticed no evidence of camera vibration or other such production artifacts that can occur during moments of high volume low bass. Occasional trade-offs between lighting for the live audience and lighting for the video production occur, resulting in specific shots that are a bit on the shadowy side. That is a minor concern at worst, though, and the presentation on disc is otherwise uniformly excellent.
This concert was previously released in the HD-DVD format, and the only significant upgrade from that release comes in the form of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The surround mix is fairly conservative in terms of the use of rear channels which are mostly relegated to crowd noise and ambience, but the music is spread wide across the front channels for an overall pleasing audio experience with outstanding fidelity. Also included is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a PCM 2.0 stereo track.
The only extra is a 30 minute band interview that occurs with Hayward, Lodge, and Edge seated together on stage. It is presented in 16:9 enhanced standard definition video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. Topics covered include their personal lives, their musical philosophy, encounters with extreme fans, their daily routines, their favorite songs to play live, the remastering of their early albums, their odd road to success, the music that they like today (Justin Hayward is a Foo Fighters fan - who knew?), and their generation-spanning fan base.
The single layered BD-25 is packaged in a standard Blu-ray case with additional art and song credits visible when the case is opened through the translucent blue plastic. The song credits include both writing credits and a list of who played what instruments on each song in the concert.
The Moody Blues: Lovely to See You shows that after more than 40 years, there is still some gas in the tank of this band as a touring outfit. The concert mixes a generous helping of classics from their heyday with a couple of newer tracks as well. It is presented on Blu-ray disc with outstanding 1080i AVC encoded video quality. It has a similarly excellent lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. The only extra is a 30 minute interview with the band presented in 16:9 standard definition video that is worth at least a single viewing and possibly more for dedicated fans.
Edited by Ken_McAlinden - 7/24/2009 at 01:10 pm GMT