Justin Hayward – Solo Sailing Through the Years With Moody Blues

I admit attending Justin Hayward’s solo show with a bit of trepidation, as I was unsure how his rather majestic compositions with Moody Blues would work in stripped down renditions. For instance, his first radio hit was mammoth then, and remains in circulation today – “Nights in White Satin.” Upon its 1967 release the integration of its symphonic elements grabbed listeners. Yet more recently last night in concert, with able accompaniment by keyboards and another guitar, the song was still excellent. Indeed, each version from his Moody Blues songbook was rendered expertly.

After decades of consternation, I finally discovered that the Moody Blues is the only link between British folk music and the glorious bombast of British progressive rock (I am looking at you Yes and ELP).

(photo by Marta Szczesniak)

Hayward’s concert reminded me of the night a few years ago when I saw an acoustic version of Strawbs, which band started solidly in the thick of British folk music and in the 1970s evolved into an edgier incarnation of masterful, thicker electric compositions. (Intriguingly, it was after Rick Wakeman departed Strawbs that the band got heavier, and he joined Yes in time for them to explode with the Fragile album.)

Justin Hayward, Mike Dawes, Julie Ragins (photo by Brad Auerbach)

Last evening Hayward and his accompanying musicians (Mike Dawes, guitar and Julie Ragins, vocals and keyboards) did a wholly credible job of evoking the multilayered and often orchestral compositions of the original Moody Blues tracks. The audience reacted warmly to his renditions of classics like of “The Story in Your Eyes,” “Question” and “Lovely to See You.” Hayward switched back and forth between six and twelve string guitars, and moved through additional gems like “One Day, Someday,” “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere.” His between song patter was insightful, adding depth and backstory to many of the songs. The story of how the global smash “Forever Autumn” was almost passed over was intriguing.

One particularly poignant story involved the westward-facing picture window he and his brother shared growing up in Swindon. It was out that window that dreams were spun about his musical heroes to the west, and from that window he endlessly watched the weather develop from miles away. That imagery connected directly with the cloud like backdrop onstage, and the wistful, floating and dreamy nature of his lyrics.

Hayward is hosting a cruise in February through Nassau and the Bahamas. He has assembled an eyebrow-raising list of musicians: The Zombies, Dave Mason, Steve Hackett, Al Stewart, Wishbone Ash, POCO, Vanilla Fudge, Colin Blunstone, Danny Seraphine and Bill Champlin from the band Chicago, Rick Derringer, Randy Hansen, Strawbs, Stephen Bishop, Todd Rundgren and Young Dubliners.

I have said it before, and I am so pleased when heritage artists are still able to do what they love.

Justin Hayward (photo by Brad Auerbach)



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.