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The Lost Chord honors Moody Blues

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Sherman Hoover, at left, and Todd Byington sing with gusto in The Lost Chord’s Moody Blues tribute shows. Their next one is May 26. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The Lost Chord, the Moody Blues tribute band based in Asheville, put on a superb multi-media show Feb. 17 in the newly-renovated club at 312 Haywood Road three odometer blocks east of N.C. 240.

The popular band will play Saturday, May 26 at 8 p.m. in the larger Grey Eagle at 185 Clingman Ave. in Asheville. The Lost Chord formed in summer of 2016, did its first live public show a year ago on April Fool’s Day, and has sold out its first six shows.

The Lost Chord dazzles with precise sound, and as a bonus amazing visuals of kaleidoscopic and other abstract animation such as with psychedelic geometric art. This honors a creative band known in part for its mystical, colorful, abstract album art.

Much imagery reflects song themes and lyrics. For instance, “Dawning is the Day” progresses to animation of a man triumphantly reaching out, with a bright gold-crimson sunrise behind him.

Also on a big screen behind them, a slide show of various images to fit lyrics of some songs. As The Lost Chord starts playing “The Actor,” it shows a Shakespearean actor holding a sword. During the second verse about a rainy afternoon, it shows a man gazing out a window at rain. A woman is shown looking during the line “she sits and gazes, from the window.”

In abstraction during that song’s chorus, as lead singer Sherman Hoover explains, “a man and woman form facing each other — with purple, blue and red vertical lines of light pouring out from the top of their scalps.” Hoover created most of the visuals. He also shares historical tidbits between songs, in concert.

The show projects a few photos of the actual Moody Blues. The pioneering British band will be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 14. “Awesome” is Hoover’s take on the belated induction. “It’s about time.”

The Moody Blues revolutionized sophisticated progressive rock with their first seven albums in the mid-Sixties to mid-Seventies, forging orchestral-pop-rock blends and pensive and dreamy poetic lyrics.

“There’s a mystical side, to their songs musically and lyrically,” Hoover said. “The music has a lot of reverb — open-spaciousness, a dreaminess. We recreate the classic cosmic sound of the original classic recordings of the hits and obscure gems, in a live setting.” He said it felt “very powerful” to see smiles and even joyous tears in the crowd.

The Lost Chord’s fronting duo is a yin-yang of serious Hoover (neo Justin Hayward) as singer and electric bass guitarist, and comical acoustic guitarist Todd Byington Byington with grins and gestures.

Many who have seen and heard them marveled at how closely Hoover sings like vintage Hayward. Hoover, who also sings some Lodge leads, is familiar for years as bassist in The Billy Jonas Band.

Byington sings most John Lodge and Ray Thomas leads, and adds duo harmony. Lodge as the bassist who seldom sang lead “played some very complicated bass parts” such as in the rocker “The Story in Your Eyes,” Hoover said. He said that makes it a challenge to both sing and play bass for Moodies songs.

Instrumentation also draws raves for The Lost Chord. Byington flat-picks well. He rapidly strums a 12-string guitar to the required frenzy for “Question,” in the midst of a half-hour encore after two sets. He said he focused to get into that solo, then could shift into automatic. He said the toughest part was also harmonizing vocals, while playing so furiously.

Byington did the poetic narrative to “Nights in White Satin” with a convincing British accent. It bookends the song, ending with the famed philosophical line “we decide what is right — and what is an illusion.”

As for illusion, the local act is a very convincing illusion of the Moody Blues. Byington and Hoover are both age 50, born in the Summer of Love in ’67. The others grew up with early Moody albums.

Paul Quick, 66, plays lead electric guitar such as on “Ride My See Saw” and raucous encore “I’m Just a Singer.” He adds extra acoustic guitar and percussion. Quick sings lead on the up-tempo segments of “Question,” while Hoover does the delicate pensive middle portion that Hoover notes was initially penned as a separate song.

Band founder Garry Byrne plays an array of samplings on keyboards. Byington plays keyboard on two songs. Hoover also adds keyboard, with some sounds “I meticulously programmed.” He plays a theremin-like sound in”Departure,” slowing rising in pitch using a touch-screen tablet. “I run my finger along the screen, changing the pitch.” He does handyman work and enjoys “figuring out why things aren’t working, and fixing them.”

James Wilson drums, on a programmable electric kit. Kate Kinney Barber plays flute, some tambourine, and provides four-part harmony. Flute is what Ray Thomas played with the band, until recent tours. The tall, thick mustached co-founding member died Jan. 4, at age 76 after a three-year bout with prostate cancer.

A medley of his more obscure songs is part of The Lost Chord’s tribute to Thomas. His flute solos spiced up “…Satin” and other hits with a classical sound. Barber said she feels honored to carry on that aspect.

Instrumentally, above all many associate The Moody Blues with the unique Mellotron’s stirring sound as an early tape-based orchestral sampler. Keyboardist Mike Pinder unveiled it first on “Tuesday Afternoon” in 1967 sounding like an entire string section, on “Watching and Waiting” in ’69, then as surreal backdrop for their signature hit “Nights in White Satin” from ’67. In ’72, song was re-released with strings in an extended (4:20, unusually long then) version. It soared to the top of pop charts and Billboard’s no. 2 slot.

Byrne relishes how “modern technologies — virtual digital modeling software on laptop — permit the summoning of the rare and unusual sound of the Mellotron. We can bring it to the stage without having to own, maintain and move that huge unreliable beast.”

He knows first-hand, having owned a Mellotron. It cannot be tuned while played. It plays up to eight seconds of tape, per sound sample, and rewinds once the person lifts the finger off of the key.

Byrne felt “transfixed” to the instrument’s “gorgeous, other-worldly heavenly sound. Not an organ. Not an orchestra, but something in between and ‘cosmic.’” Also, lyrics expressed “inner exploration and outward expressions of love, compassion, inspiration, etc.” He said Moody Blues music burst “past one’s political, social and emotional ‘barriers’ and goes right to one’s heart. Under it all, we are one.”

Byrne includes digital samples of Pinder’s Mellotron in his keyboard’s repertoire. Byrne enjoys replicating that sound in a “roomful of people whose spirits are moved. Several attendees have come up to me in tears thanking us for playing the music that they love, but don’t hear others playing it.”

Indeed, it is very rare to hear Moody Blues’ complex songs played live by cover bands let alone an in-depth tribute with historical anecdotes. The Lost Chord typically dedicates one of its two sets to an early album. Their last two shows focused on the landmark 1967 Days of Future Passed with “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin.” They first did so for the LP’s 50th’ anniversary.

They will play a variety of hits and album tracks in The Grey Eagle May 26, Hoover noted. Then in shows this summer they will transition to the Moodies’ next album of a half-century vintage — The Lost Chord from ’68. They like that album so much, they named their tribute band after it. “It’s more colorful” than other Moody Blues LPs, Hoover said. “It has more variety, song to song.”

It features the rocker “Ride My See Saw,” which is among The Lost Chord’s biggest crowd pleasers. Such an up-tempo song is tough to play, with instrumentation and vocals in full throttle, several in the band noted. “Isn’t Life Strange?” from ’72 and “Question” from ’69 both change tempos drastically.

Adding more harmony is among the tribute band’s refinements of tunes, and is gratifying. Hoover said, “If we find a way to make it better, we get excited.”

Their musical backgrounds vary. Byington was in the Athens, Ga. folk rock scene when it was led by REM. Hoover, who has lived in Asheville for 21 years, as a boy listened to his father’s classical and folk records.

Quick likes the Moodies’ blend of ballads and rock. He was at LSU in circa 1970, when “Pistol Pete” Maravich was college hoops’ leading scorer. Barber collected Moody Blues records when she started college at Indiana in 1969.

Tickets for the show May 26 are $15 for general admission, or $22 for priority seating. For more on the band, email Hoover at artshehoo@gmail.com or check on Facebook for The Lost Chord – Moody Blues Tribute Band.

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