Moody Blues Orlando Show Review – CFE Arena
On a chilly Philadelphia night on November 20, 1981 my life changed. Along with a childhood friend, I made my first trek to the aging Spectrum where we caught The Moody Blues on their Long Distance Voyager Tour – my first rock ‘n roll concert. Struck by the magnificence of live rock ‘n roll, I’ve probably seen 1,000 bands since that fateful night, as the Moody Blues sparked a flame in me that still burns strong today.
Over the years, I came to admire their timeless 1967 classic Days of Future Passed as one of the greatest rock albums ever. It was one of the earliest concept albums and featured the London Festival Orchestra. The album was an amazing piece of art that spawned two of the band’s all-time classics “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon.” I saw the band a few times since that first night, but never heard anything other than those classic hits when they played live.
This year, that changed, as the new Rock & Roll Hall of Famers are touring to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the iconic album, and in doing so, are playing the entire album straight through. On Friday night, they brought the tour to Orlando’s cozy CFE Arena.
Before the band took the stage, The Moody Blues played a video tribute to the recently departed Ray Thomas as “Melancholy Man” and “Dear Diary” played on the PA. It was a nice tribute to a central figure in the band’s history.
With the lights dimmed, the three remaining original members took the stage as the rest of the ensemble delivered the hard-driving beat of “I’m Just a Singer.” Silver-haired Graeme Edge climbed behind one of the two drum kits and his two 70-something partners Justin Hayward and John Lodge slung their instruments over their shoulders. With historical photos of the band’s early days flashing across the video screen, they ripped through the song, playing an extended version and the music was pristine. And, a bit to my surprise, Lodge’s vocals were spot on.
When the band transitioned into “The Voice” we heard that Hayward’s vocals were also still as beautiful and robust as when he first joined the band. The first set featured seven songs from seven different albums, as the band showcased their huge and diverse musical library. Early highlights included a perfectly delivered “Isn’t Life Strange” which featured precise guitar work from the under-appreciated Hayward, and the raucous set-closer “The Story In Your Eyes.”
(The full setlist is available below)
While the band refreshed back stage, the buzz in the crowd was how amazing Lodge and Hayward sounded on vocals. After another video tribute to Ray Thomas, as his tender love song “For My Lady” played, it was on to the main event: Days of Future Passed.
With psychedelic shapes drifting across the screen, the face of Jeremy Irons appeared on the screen to narrate the opener, “The Day Begins.” The delivery of the album was handled extremely well, with Peter Knight’s symphonic pieces played over the speakers while videos flashed across the screens, and the band playing each of the eight live pieces in between.
The songs sounded wonderful, with Lodge’s bass and Hayward’s guitar always delivering perfection. The 72 year-old Lodge, wearing his trademark black leather pants put on a hell of a show. He was all over the stage and constantly connecting with the crowd.
See our Photo Gallery: Moody Blues at CFE Arena
“Peak Hour” was a standout track featured excellent guitar work from Hayward and is a song that translated perfectly to a live setting. Hayward again stole the spotlight with pitch-perfect vocals on an unaccompanied “Tuesday Afternoon”lead.
The entire album sounded great, and gave the background band members plenty of opportunities to shine. Ray Thomas’s flute parts were played by a woman who was flanked by two keyboardists on opposite sides of the stage. The second drummer actually powered the band throughout, as Edge’s parts were easier fills and accompaniments.
But it was great seeing the 76 year-old icon playing on stage the entire show.
My only complaint was that the band rarely spoke to the crowd. It would have been great to hear a word or two from the band on the loss of Thomas, or their recent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
After a magnificent version of “Nights in White Satin” that brought the entire crowd to their feet, they closed with a two song encore. “Question” became a nice singalong moment, before they closed the show with a rollicking “Ride My See Saw.” It was a powerful end to a legendary night, on a rare evening where Orlando rock music fans saw pure rock ‘n roll majesty delivering an iconic performance.
Related: RIP Ray Thomas, The Veteran Cosmic Rocker.
Kudos to the fine folks at CFE Arena. The sound in the building was excellent, especially for such a sonic classic. I also loved the friendliness of the staff throughout the facility. Top-notch people everywhere who went out of the way to accommodate every guest.
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Moody Blues Orlando Setlist
I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)
Steppin’ in a Slide Zone
Your Wildest Dreams
Isn’t Life Strange
I Know You’re Out There Somewhere
The Story in Your Eyes
Days of Future Passed:
The Day Begins (Jeremy Irons on video)
Dawn Is a Feeling
(Evening) Time to Get Away
Late Lament (Jeremy Irons on video)
Nights in White Satin
Ride My See-Saw