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MOODY BLUES PULLS OFF SUPERB BUT FORMULAIC SHOW

Toward the end of the concert, Moody Blues bass-guitarist John Lodge extended his arms toward the politely raucous crowd and exclaimed, "Thank you for keeping the faith!"

It was a curious comment from a singer in a secular rock 'n' roll band, to be sure.Faith in what? Faith, perhaps, that the Moody Blues, famous for their inventiveness, will someday create something new again?

After all, it has been nearly four years since they put out an original album. In the past six years, this band, which used to churn out hits regularly, has produced two, maybe three, memorable songs.

How long can the Moodies rest on their laurels, playing carefully rehearsed shows devoid of spontaneity? How long can these co-op gigs with local orchestras last?

If Tuesday's show was any indication, quite a while. The 10,000 fans who escaped the Rolling Stones hype long enough Tuesday to see the Moodies showed no signs of disappointment. The Moody Blues faithful don't seem too restless.

This is a band that has endured largely by knowing what its audiences want and giving it to them with style and energy. Tuesday was no exception, as the Moodies, with the help of a world-class orchestra, pulled off a superb, albeit formulaic, two-hour show.

As an antipasto to Tuesday's musical feast, the Moodies began the show by staying backstage, allowing the 50-piece orchestra to play a 10-minute medley of Moody tunes. It was arranged and conducted by Larry Baird, a musical wizard the band picked up in Colorado for the famous concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Following the medley, which spanned the 30-year history of the band, drummer Graeme Edge strolled on stage and, as he is prone to do, recited a poem. This time it was "The Dream," from the album "On The Threshold of A Dream."

His fellow Moodies - accompanied by two keyboardists, an extra drummer and two female vocalists/tambourinettes - then joined him on stage and got down to business.

Appropriately enough, considering the day of the week, they opened with "Tuesday Afternoon."

They spent the next half-hour sidetracked in obscurity, playing songs like "Gypsy," "Actor" and the highly forgettable "Lean On Me Tonight."

Things were pretty much on a low simmer until the Moodies turned up the heat on "Say It With Love," a hard-driving song that served as a reminder that this band can rock and that lead singer/guitarist Justin Hayward is quite handy with an electric guitar. He was also notable on "The Story in Your Eyes," and expanded his prowess to the 12-string guitar for "Question."

The Moodies kept the crowd to near-frenzy level with "Steppin' in a Slide Zone" and then let loose with "I Know You're Out There Somewhere," which prompted the evening's first widespread standing ovation.

Much of the attention was aimed at Hayward, whose vocals remained strong and relatively clear despite the bad acoustics of the cavernous Delta Center, which on concert nights should be renamed "The House of Multiple Reverberations."

After a brief halftime that allowed Hayward to change into a sleeveless black shirt, the Moody Blues returned for a rousing second half, in which rock band and orchestra became one monstrous sound machine.

The two art forms were particularly powerful on "Isn't Life Strange," "The Other Side of Life" and "Nights in White Satin."

Ray Thomas delivered a strong vocal performance on the psychedelic "Timothy Leary," but his flute solo was a bit breathy. Nevertheless, the song evoked another appreciative standing O, which continued through "Question" and the encore, "Ride My Seesaw," a song Hayward likes to precede by spell-shouting L-O-V-E.

Let's just hope the faith holds out long enough to prevent the band's recent lapse into predictability from spelling its own D-O-O-M.