The Moody Blues *** Edinburgh Playhouse THE Moody Blues turned into the muddy blues for the opening few numbers of last night's performance at the Edinburgh Playhouse, as they failed to find a comfortable balance between voices and instruments on stage.
If it wasn't quite as lovely to hear as it should have been, Lovely to See You was a suitable opener for the Moodies' female fans – as Justin Hayward stepped out on to the stage, wearing his blond hair long, his blue jeans faded and his blazer crisp.
Behind him the second original band member, drummer Graeme Edge, moved gamely up to his kit, slightly less steady on his pins than he once was. Sadly, the full effect of a stunningly psychedelic Hawaiian shirt was spoiled somewhat by being tucked neatly into his trousers.
There's nothing muted about the third original, bassist John Lodge. Resplendent in black shirt and tight, leather trousers, with properly shaggy – but greying – hair, he is clearly living out the on-stage element of the rock'n'roll fantasy, if not the off-stage one.
He strutted around striking rock-god poses. While Hayward stood strumming in slightly disdainful fashion, Lodge thrust his hips forward suggestively and raised his instrument up into the vertical in a manner which could have only one interpretation.
By the time the band cruised into Voices in the Sky, this tour's variation in a set-list that otherwise seems to have been fixed for years, the sound had evened-up considerably, although it never did hit the clarity needed.
As the first night on a British tour, you might feel inclined to forgive the technical crew. But for a band that has pretensions to be the biggest touring outfit in the world, such things shouldn't happen. Particularly at the below eardrum-blistering volume the Moodies' music demands.
At their best, the Moody Blues mix a gently chugging boogie with psychedelic English folk of the pixie-bothering variety, and release it in full symphonic glory complete with computer-generated mellotron effects and flute. At their worst, they create tediously plodding ballads.
Fortunately, of the latter, there was only December Snow on display last night. However, it served to indicate just how prescriptive the band's music can be. At times it was just dying to be stretched and changed around.
Luckily the band aren't tempted down that line – otherwise their live sets might descend into a two-hour rendition of their signature tune, Nights in White Satin. Instead, they place the song at the evening's climax and pace themselves towards it.
As the second half neared its end, Edge stepping forward to front Higher and Higher, inspired by Neil Armstrong's exploits of nearly 40 years ago.
It even brought sections of the audience to their feet. And rightly so. If the sound disappointed, just seeing the Moody Blues still alive, on stage, and rocking did not.