While it was enjoyable, “The Moody Blues: Live at
Montreux 1991” was an example of a band that clearly
couldn’t replicate their studio performances when
performing live on stage, with or without an orchestra.
On this occasion, John Lodge, Justin Hayward,
Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas were joined by
Paul Bliss and Bias Boshell on keyboards, as well
as Gordon Marshall on drums and two female
Despite the use of two keyboards, I felt that the
overall mix of the concert was “off” and “anemic,”
especially where a powerful, orchestral sound was
needed. I found their use of two drummers to be
interesting, but I failed to see the necessity of
using more than one.
I remember seeing The Moody Blues in concert during
the mid 1980’s, and can recall feeling the same way
after that concert, which was part of a tour in support
of their “The Present” album. For the Montreux concert,
they were touring in support of their
“Keys of the Kingdom” album release. While it was nice
to hear unfamiliar tunes, it’s clear to me that the
“Moodies” are an example of a band whose past
legacy (i.e., 1967 through 1972 in particular) looms
disproportionately large, when comparing it with
their music since that time. Yet, they have continued
to churn out albums, and have even managed to
produce a few bona fide hits since then. It’s just
that in the main, their music isn’t as inspired as
it was during their early years.
Going back to the problem of effectively rendering
their music within a “live” context–I believe that
part of the problem is that they set such high
standards for themselves in the old days, when
recording on the Deram and Threshold labels with
producers such as Tony Clarke. Even when they
didn’t use a full orchestra, as they did on 1967’s
“Days of Future Passed,” the band was still able
to achieve an orchestral sound, thanks in large
part to Mike Pinder’s keyboard skills and studio
wizardry. It also didn’t hurt that most of the band
members were multi-instrumentalists.
What often came off as a “masterpiece” in the
recording studio, ended up sounding like a “joke”
on stage, which was the case in this Montreux
concert from 1991, and probably also when I saw
them perform in 1984 or 1985.
Nevertheless, the strong content of their songwriting,
which could be inspiring, made the songs enjoyable.
I’m always in favor of hearing different versions
(i.e., “live”) of songs which are “overplayed” on the radio,
regardless of how “perfect” those popular
arrangements might be. However, in the case of
The Moody Blues, the contrast between the studio
versions of their songs versus their live “attempts” is
particularly wide; so much so that for all the interest
provided by this concert, I can almost say that
The Moody Blues isn’t a “live” band at all!
To top it off, some of the interpretive decisions made
by the musicians clearly misfired. Of course, I’m referring
to their older, “classic” songs, and not the more
recent ones, for which I have little basis for comparison.
For the most part, the newer ones struck me as
being okay, but rather bland.
I understand that The Moody Blues are still touring,
sans Ray Thomas, although they apparently haven’t
released an album of new material since 2003. Based
upon this DVD, as well as my own personal concert
experience from the mid 1980’s, I can honestly say
that their best efforts are in a studio setting.
Unfortunately, the sound engineering on this disc,
released under the Eagle Vision label, isn’t one of
the better ones in the “Live at Montreux” series.
However, people like me who wish to get the
“big picture” of any band or musician will still
want to check it out.