Before The Moody Blues released Days of Future Passed in 1967, they probably seemed likely to be simply another sixties pop band destined to have a few minor hits and then disappear into the annals of time. Their 1965 debut album The Magnificent Moodies had yielded a number one single in the UK with a cover of Bessie Banks’ “Go Now,” but the Merseybeat sound the band had adopted was already beginning to sound dated by the time the record was released. Several further singles failed to chart nearly as well, personnel changes (notably, the departure of singer and guitarist Denny Laine and bassist Clint Warwick, replaced respectively by Justin Hayward and John Lodge) pointed to internal problems, and the band was still in debt to their label Decca for advances. Many bands buckled under less weight.
Instead, however, the label offered the band the opportunity to make what sounds in hindsight like one of the oddest and most misguided projects of all time, a rock and roll version of Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor (known as the “New World Symphony”) on their new imprint Deram Records, to promote their new stereo record format. The project, perhaps unsurprisingly, failed, leaving the band with an orchestra, arranger/conductor Peter Knight, and the opportunity to create something entirely new. The result was the band’s second album, Days of Future Passed, a record which became an instant classic in a time of great changes in the rock and roll world (the same year had yielded The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beach Boys’ Smiley Smile, and The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request, amongst others). The album placed the Moodies firmly in the rock and roll canon, and launched them on a career which continues to this day.
For the fiftieth anniversary of the album this year, the band has embarked on a world tour celebrating the album. While keyboardist Mike Pinder departed in 1978, and singer and flautist Ray Thomas left in 2002, the band still centers around a core trio of members responsible for the record – Hayward, Lodge, and drummer Graeme Edge. Joined by several additional touring musicians, the band brought a night of their hits, including the Days of Future Passed album in full, to Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore.
The band opened the night with a set of songs from throughout their career, beginning with “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” from 1972’s Seventh Sojourn. The set mostly saw the band veering away from their late 60s and early 70s records though, instead concentrating on the late 70s (“Steppin’ in a Slide Zone” from 1978’s Octave) and the 80s (“Nervous” from 1981’s Long Distance Voyager, “Your Wildest Dreams” from 1986’s The Other Side of Life, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” from 1988’s Sur la Mer), only returning to the earlier albums at the end of the set for “The Story in Your Eyes” from 1971’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favor. The set seemed a bit reserved for the usually very lively group, but it was likely because Heyward and Lodge were saving their energy and voices for what was to come.
After a brief intermission, the band returned to the stage for a set playing Days of Future Passed in full. While some of the songs like “Forever Aftenoon (Tuesday)” and “Nights in White Satin” have remained staples of their set for years, hearing others like “Dawn Is a Feeling,” “Peak Hour,” and “(Evening) Time to Get Away” performed live was almost certainly a treat for the venue packed with fans. For the tracks originally sung by Pinder or Thomas, Hayward and Lodge took turns doing the vocals, and the result was more than satisfactory even if it did change the feel of the songs a bit. Edge’s poems “The Day Begins” and “Late Lament,” spoken on the album by Pinder, were performed via pre-recorded video by actor Jeremy Irons. These worked, but pointed to a larger problem plaguing an "authentic" performance of the album – the fact that it’s impractical at best to tour with an entire symphony orchestra. The band’s solution, using pre-recorded orchestral parts, felt a bit awkward and forced, as the band stood still in the dark for several minutes at a time while the orchestral interludes played. A better, if less authentic, solution might have been to rearrange the parts for a smaller (but live) ensemble. Still, it did serve to faithfully recreate the album, and the opportunity to experience it live even with such issues was more than worthwhile.
The band returned one more time for a brief encore, playing “Question” from 1970’s A Question of Balance and “Ride My See-Saw” from 1968’s In Search of the Lost Chord.