Singer says Moody Blues avoid labels
John Lodge sang it best himself in the chorus of the Moody Blues' 1972 hit, "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)."
When he wrote it, he was probably referring to the power music has on people, not as a statement denying the categorization of his band.
"I don't know how you can put a label on the Moody Blues," the group's 65-year-old singing bassist says from a resort in Temecula, Calif. "People have been trying to do that since 1966."
Lodge refers to labels frequently stuck to the band. Terms like "symphonic rock" are tagged to orchestrated classics like "Tuesday Afternoon" or "Nights in White Satin." "Progressive" or "prog" gets linked to the group's heavy use of mellotrons and other keyboards on tracks like "Steppin' in a Slide Zone."
"If you listen to any of the Moody Blues songs, there's such a wide range of the music," Lodge says.
Fans get a chance to hear a fair amount of the group's music Wednesday night when the Moody Blues play the Bluestem Center for the Arts in Moorhead.
The show will be the first rock concert at the 2-year-old venue, but it will be in careful hands.
"There's nothing better than late spring, summer or autumn to be outside, al fresco, listening to music," the 65-year-old singer/bassist says. "If it's possible, I prefer to play outside. There's just something magical about playing outside. I think if you play an outside venue, it's as though the venue belongs to the audience."
As much as Lodge likes open-air spaces, he has fond memories of the last time the group played the F-M area, a 1997 Fargodome show with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra.
"I do remember the concert well, in a huge building that was semi-underground. So that was cool," the 65-year-old says. "It was a brilliant building and a great night. We really enjoyed it."
They weren't the only ones.
Bill Law, then the executive director of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, said it was a great opportunity for the local musicians.
"It's pretty different from the (traditional) concert orchestra experience," Law says.
Growing up in the late '60s and '70s, the Moody Blues were a favorite of Law's.
"To hear that music with our orchestra and in our venue and in front of our crowd, that was pretty exciting," says Law, who managed the FMSO from '96 to '05. "It was a pretty cool moment in my life."
The Blues won't bring the FMSO back for an encore this time around. But fans should still get the full Moody experience.
"Within ourselves we create the illusion, I think, of an orchestra with a rock 'n' roll core," Lodge says.
The live, symphonic show was most notably captured at the group's 1992 concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, released on CD the following year. That concert was held to mark the 25th anniversary of their landmark concept album, "Days of Future Passed."
Lodge says there are no similar plans in the works for the group's upcoming 50th anniversary in 2014.
"I'm sure record companies and touring companies will say, 'You should do something special.' I look at every concert and every tour as special," Lodge says.
He adds that this summer will see a new "definitive" best-of disc released.
For a band that's been around for nearly half a century, the group has survived with its core (singer/guitarist Justin Hayward and founding drummer Graeme Edge) avoiding typical rock-star troubles.
"We became musicians, became artists, became singers for the love of music. I think of it like driving along the freeway and seeing a car crash and thinking, 'I don't know what caused that, but I'm glad it's not me.' " Lodge says. "We've been going down our own road, and we've seen so many artists kind of fall by the wayside because of various things. By being committed to the music, I want to be on stage performing the music the best I can forever."
Lodge's focus isn't lost on hardcore fan David Wyum. Wednesday's show will be the 22nd time he's seen the group. As a member of the Moody's fan club, he won a dinner in England with the band in 1996.
"It's just good music. It's better than alcohol and drugs," the 57-year-old West Fargoan says.
He even got his daughter interested in the group, though what really hooked her was when Edge handed her his drumsticks after a concert in the early '90s. Wednesday's show will be the 16th for 27-year-old Melinda Wyum.
The Moodys '99 appearance on "The Simpsons" exposed them to a younger audience - and allowed them to poke fun at themselves. (In the episode, a hung-over Homer Simpson and Ned Flanders run away from their Las Vegas wives, only to be surrounded by Sin City enforcers, including the band. As Edge and Hayward start a poem spelling out the philanderers' fate, Lodge interrupts, "Can the poems, its arse-whipping time.")
"I thought that was fantastic. To be asked to do the Simpsons was a great honor," Lodge says, laughing. "It's probably its own hall of fame, really, being on 'The Simpsons.' "
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has yet to open its doors to the Moody Blues, despite the group's success, which includes more than 55 million albums sold.
The snub doesn't seem to bother Lodge, who is more interested in where he stands with fans.
"I hope we'll be remembered for our music," Lodge says. "I hope the memory is when you listen to a Moody Blues record, it's left you with an emotion. Even if it's that one moment in time or the rest of your life, if it's uplifted you, made you feel good, that's what I'd like it to be."
If you go
* What: The Moody Blues
* When: Doors at 7 p.m., music at 8 Wednesday
* Where: Bluestem Center for the Arts Amphitheatre, 801 50th Ave S., Moorhead
* Tickets: Tickets are $38 for general-admission lawn spots, $48 for general-admission bench seats. (701) 205-3182.