"You can't be serious if you are serious," the opening artist -- Jimmy Spheeris -- remarked with a self-satisfied grin. A nifty statement, to be sure, and one that his friends, the Moody Blues, might consider taking, er, seriously.

The Moody Blues concert last night at the Merriweather Post Pavilion was a truly stuffy affair -- quite a feat considering the group employed a plethora of flashy stage gimmicks. Smoke effects, spacey (as opposed to astral) projections and swirling lights could not compensate for the musicians' stodgy presence. With the exception of flutist Ray Thomas, they had all the animation of a bust at Mount Rushmore.

Of course, this was appropriate given the Moody Blues' musical frame of mind. With his phalanx of electronic keyboards, Patrick Moraz created harmonic layers that seemed etched in granite. Justin Hayward and John Lodge added vocals that were absolutely Mahlerian in their heaviness, while drummer Graeme Edge propelled the songs along with symphonic percussive outbursts (and somewhat shaky tempos).

The group featured many of its greatest hits and then some, including the idyllic idiocy of "A Question of Balance" and a rendition of "Nights in White Satin" that somehow managed to transcend the banality of the recorded version.

In all fairness, the Moody Blues" performance was, in its own arch fashion, entertaining. The melodies were pretty and the effects were at times striking. The capacity crowd seemed to enjoy the show immensely. If only the group had relaxed and enjoyed itself.