Story and Photo by Andy ArgyrakisWe haven't heard much from them lately (aside from a string of nostalgic re-issues and a slew of compilatory boxed sets) but The Moody Blues still remain on the road regularly presenting its stoic catalogue to a dwindling pack of diehard followers. They may not have had a new record of entirely original material to tote in what seems like eternity, but come this wintry trek through the states at least one new product has become available. The reason for this tour revolves around the CD "December," the Moodies' first ever holiday collection intended to bridge their classically minded rock and roll sound with a seasonal soundtrack strategically released just in time for gift giving. As to be expected by skeptics, this desperate plea for renewed attention and artistic awakening falls several steps short of band's historic Birmingham roots, counting them amongst the many nostalgic groups still floundering for significance but sounding no more valid than the holiday humdrum of a Mannheim Steamroller record.
Indeed selections from "December" fell flat at the band's Rosemont Theatre engagement landing somewhere in between middle aged blandness and regurgitated gimmickry suitable for light rock and oldies radio. Both on the record and in concert, the group merely snowplowed through both the season's usuals and originals on automatic pilot like a lifeless Santa Claus stuffed with a belly full of milk and cookies. Cuts like "Don't Need a Reindeer" and "The Spirit of Christmas" may have seemed cheery enough to the ear, but visually lacked the energy that's come with members' aging and frequency of playing. Even though "White Christmas" and "December Snow" lyrically alluded to many pleasantries of the advent period, the enthusiasm level for such timely treats was virtually non-existent thanks to members' stiff movements against the frugally decorated stage bathed in drab lighting.
The band was in slightly better shape presenting its backlog of greatest hits, though again the verve of its original incarnation and chart ruling days was left decades in the dust. "I Know You're Out There Somewhere," "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" and "Ride My See-Saw" were amongst the best received songs of the night, resting somewhere in between a trip down memory lane and a reminder of the group's post-Mod/pre-punk influence on the English rock community. "Nights in White Satin," "English Sunset" and "Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)" furthered such recollections, touching on the symphonic bliss and grandiose production quality of days gone by, though a 1980s visit to the poorly watered down pop of "Your Wildest Dreams" returned to the set's disappointing depths.
If The Moody Blues' latest Chicago concert proved anything, it was that the band's best days are long behind them. Instead of catching this deteriorating nucleus on the road, perhaps it would be more advantageous to check out re-releases of the group's classic albums (including "Days of Future Past" and "To Our Children's Children"). Those insistent on sticking to the Moodies' less dated rearrangements can also check out 1992's "A Night At Red Rocks" where many of the songs presented on this tour are fleshed out flawlessly by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
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