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Moody Blues trips back in time

The Moody Blues may be known colloquially throughout the land as a mystic branch of progressive rock. But Saturday night it regressed through time for the first third of its 90-minute set in Seneca Events Center.

Beginning with a double shot of singles ("Gemini Dream" and "The Voice") from 1981's "Long Distance Voyager," the band worked backwards from there to "Peak Hour" from 1967's symphonic "Days of Future Past."

In fact, the English band's 32-city spring tour -- "The Moody Blues: The Voyage Continues-Highway 45," which concluded Saturday -- was dubbed a celebration of the latter album's 45th anniversary.

The story goes that they saw an old 45 pressing of "Days" while reviewing promotional material for this tour and made the connection to the 45th anniversary of their breakout album's release. It was a good peg for the tour with no new material to speak of.

Sandwiched between those songs, however, were 1978's "Steppin' in a Slide Zone," "You and Me" from 1972 and 1968's "Tuesday Afternoon." It was a "musical journey" (as original drummer Graeme Edge would later say of those halcyon days) that began with late-1970s synthesizers and rested comfortably on a bed of harmonies from the Summer of Love.

Did longtime guitarist Justin Hayward, bassist John Lodge and Edge change with the times? Or did the times change with them and other similarly inclined artists such as King Crimson and Jethro Tull? Does it matter?

Their material from nigh-on-five decades stands on its own as a reflection of the period it was written. Yet, songs such as 1971's "The Story in Your Eyes," which marked the midway point of the set, have such a timeless rock quality that they continuously brought the capacity crowd of baby boomers to their feet.

After that, the set list bounced around from the Moodies' mid-1980s megahit "Your Wildest Dreams" to a grand, sprawling cascade of sound called "Isn't Life Strange," which featured Lodge on a double-neck bass/guitar, purple stage lights, psychedelic projections, a fog machine in overdrive and an interjection by flutist Norda Mullen.

Joining her were keyboardists Julie Ragins and Alan Hewitt and drummer Gordon Marshall, who all added heft to the band's orchestral dimensions. Indeed, Edge just turned 71, and his rhythm needed some bolstering. But give him credit for not taking it easy.

The night only got headier and more "out there" with what followed -- Edge's ode to space travel, "Higher and Higher," written after the 1969 moon landing and "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" based on the legend of King Arthur. It was a trip.

Classic rock staples "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)," "Nights in White Satin" and the Vietnam War rumination "Question" ended the set with a flourish and was met with rapturous applause. That trio of songs could be entered as Exhibit A in the case for the Moodies' long-overdue admission to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

And with 1968's "Ride My See-Saw" as an encore, our musical journey was complete.

On Saturday's Record Store Day, legions of audiophiles flocked to their locally owned vinyl peddlers for exclusive releases. So, too, did an audience turn out in Niagara Falls charmed by the Moodies' durability (and Lodge's vinyl pants).

Continuously written off over the decades as antiquated, the Moody Blues proved itself Saturday to be just as resurgent in this digital world as its original format.

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Moody Blues    

Saturday evening in the Seneca Events Center at Seneca Niagara Casino, Niagara Falls.