Dark drama fills Boston stages; aboriginal art; light Moody Blues; Moody Blues

The Moody Blues is a rock band that can flow through musical styles like water. It can combine in one song some throbbing rock 'n' roll and introspective Jacques Brel-esque vocals with an easy, unaffected grace.

It is known for its lush orchestral sound and contemplative, ''cosmic'' lyrics. But strange as it may seem, what really stood out at its Boston Common concert last Friday was singer Ray Thomas's tambourine playing.

It wasn't just that Thomas's strong back-beat clapping and jingling broke five or six tambourines. His light, informal showmanship is what lightened up the show, saving the Moody Blues' poetics from slipping into pretentiousness.

If Ray Thomas was, say, 40 percent responsible for the concert's success, attribute most of the remaining 60 percent to nostalgia. The band has been around since 1965, and the audience responded ravenously to the old songs like ''Nights in White Satin'' and ''Isn't Life Strange.''

It was the nostalgia that moved the audience to forgive Patrick Moraz's cliche synthesizer work and Justin Hayward's sometimes nervous, deadpan singing.

But the way Thomas hit that tambourine - prancing about the stage like a hysterical high school football coach and smiling at the audience - was delightful. It showed that with all the Moody Blues artistry, there is also a carnival-like joy.

- David C. Cheezem

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