The Journey Continues –
As though of you who have read my reports before know, you need to take the good with the bad. This is the story of my trip last week to see three of Justin Hayward’s solo concerts, all in Florida – Clearwater, Jacksonville and Orlando. It starts out the day before the Clearwater concert as I find my way to that city on the West coast of Florida from my home on the East Coast. So read away, dear friends…………..
Sunday, October 19, 2014
I have finally gotten excited; in fact I may be beyond excited. The day is finally here when I head for Justin’s first Florida solo concert. I left my home at 11:05 a.m. and picked up my mail on the way out. Not too much traffic although there was congestion on US60 close to Tampa Airport and on the narrow road to the beaches. My biggest criteria for a hotel for this trip was that it be close to the venue since I don’t like to drive at night (and actually can’t unless it’s around the corner). So I chose The Residence Inn in Clearwater and arrived there at 2:17 p.m. I had an absolutely beautiful room on the second floor, with a kitchenette, a living room and a bedroom, all in one huge room. I was met at the door by a Room Assistant, Kris, who helped me get my luggage up to my room and brought me a bag of ice for the freezer. I decided not to have dinner since my stomach was churning around like a bunch of butterflies. Instead I watched TV and crawled into bed at 10 p.m. I can’t wait for tomorrow to come and my first encounter with Justin on this tour!!
Monday, October 20, 2014
*The* day has finally arrived. I left a wake-up call for 8:30 a.m. and it came right on schedule. I got dressed quickly and went down to the lobby where the hotel served breakfast. They had a lot of choices, including Eggs Florentine, but I settled for muffins and orange juice. By this time, I was feeling so excited, I almost felt sick!! I stopped at the front desk since I wanted to get the names and addresses of hair dressers and florists. The gal there was very helpful. I only had to drive about a mile or so to the beauty salon. They are taping the show at The Capitol Theatre tonight for a PBS special in the future and I wanted to look my best since I will be sitting in the front row. Then, just a little ways south was a Publix supermarket where I chose my flowers for tonight’s show. On the way to Publix, I passed The Capitol Theatre and saw the bus parked in front!! I also bought flowers for Julie and Mike. I think they are very underappreciated by audiences and I wanted to show them that we really did recognize the work they put into making these concerts great. I also bought a small sub at Publix and went back to my room to eat it. I bought more flowers than I needed, so I then spent my time rearranging the bouquets to include the extra flowers. They looked really nice! I nervously watched TV, hoping the time would fly by a little faster.
Finally 5:30 p.m. arrived and I called the front desk to reserve a cab for 6:00 p.m. I got there and picked up my ticket at the Will Call office. The Capitol Theatre only holds 750 people and it was a Sold Out show, my favorite kind!! While we were waiting to go in, one of the Security staff came over to me and told me I had to give him my flowers. He said that because they were taping tonight, no gifts would be allowed into the theatre. I thought that was very strange but had no choice but to surrender them to him, with very explicit instructions about who got what! Finally at 7:00 p.m., they opened the doors so we could go in. I found my seat with no trouble and found there was a gal I knew by the name of Shawn sitting on my right. We both talked about how excited we were to see Justin performing solo. As usual, Mike Dawes came out first (introduced by Justin) and played four songs for us. He is absolutely amazing!! Then there was a twenty-minute introduction before the star of the show took center stage. He wore a navy blue shirt and black dress pants with brown shoes. And he looked amazing – happy, relaxed and ready to sing his heart out. A Justin solo concert is very different from a Moody Blues concert. Justin is very free about talking to the audience, making jokes and telling us bits and pieces of his personal life. For instance, when he talked about recording *Forever Autumn*, he mentioned that he got a call from Jeff Wayne who wanted to know if Justin was the guy who sang *NIWS*. When Justin said he was, Jeff said he had a song he wanted to send him for his consideration about recording. After some more talk, Justin said that about a year later, he got another call from a different guy. The joke is that Justin then turns to the audience and says *You know I do get more than two calls a year*!!! And everyone laughs. And he says a little different thing each time so you still laugh even though you’ve heard it before. Clearwater was the only venue where I heard him talk about his big fireplace in his big home. At one point, he called it a *walk-in fireplace* and then retracted that laughingly while saying *Well, I never did walk into it*!! Then he walked over to the microphone and while adjusting it, said very quietly, *I was never that stoned; I was close but ………* and let it drop there while the audience continued laughing. As usual, Justin had just a little trouble with *Eastern Sky*, mixing up the words only once. During the show, I asked Julie if she had received my flowers backstage and she gave me a thumbs up and said *thank you*. So I figured if she got hers, the others must have gotten theirs too. Justin threw his pic right at me after *Question*, so I was able to just reach for it and retrieve it. However, I have a number of them now so I turned to the guy sitting on my left and asked him if he and his wife were big Moody Blues fans. He said they were and I asked him if he would like to have the pic. He seemed stunned and took it gratefully. Afterward, I wondered why I hadn’t turned to Shawn and given it to her. As for Moody fans, I did see and talk to Shari Bond and her boyfriend, Steve Gillespie, and one time, I turned to my right (during intermission) and there was Barry Phipps sitting there. A number of people recognized me by my name badge and introduced themselves before and after the show. I had asked the cab driver to meet me back at The Capitol at 10 p.m. and he actually was waiting for me.
So that’s my first concert down and two to go. I have to say that Justin is sniffling again, as usual. But he still looks and sounds fantastic. It’s like he drops 10-15 years when he walks on stage. His rendition of *Watching and Waiting* brought tears to my eyes. Oh, and I have to mention that Justin said because they were taping, they asked him to do some extra songs, so he sat in a chair while Mike and Julie went offstage and sang *No Regrets* and *December Snow*. They were absolutely beautiful! I wish there were some new adjectives that I could use to describe Justin and his music but they’ve all been used before. The man is still gorgeous and hasn’t lost the power to spellbind his audiences. How can one person have so much talent? God knew what He was doing when He created this brilliant person. I can only hope he will continue to perform for years to come………………
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Today was another non-concert day as I made my way from Clearwater to Jacksonville, via Gainesville. I had lived in Gator Country for 14 years and I planned to visit with my best friend from that area. On the way north, there was traffic congestion around Sligh Avenue. I found out that a truck had overturned on the off ramp and, of course, everyone wanted to see it. I got to Gainesville around 4 p.m. and bought a carrot cake before stopping at Susanne’s house. Her husband let me in since she only got off work around 6 p.m. When Susanne got home, we decided to have dinner out at one of my favorite Gainesville restaurants, The Northwest Grill. I had crab cakes and she had blackened salmon. After that, we came home and sat outside in her screened room and talked until 11:15 p.m. That’s early for us – on one cruise, Susanne and her husband travelled with Steve and me. Both husbands would head for the cabin around 11:00 p.m. and Susanne and I would sit in one of the lounges, just talking and talking and talking until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. We made every midnight buffet and then some. She is a friend I sorely miss since I have moved…….
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Okay, this is one of the days you want to hear about – a concert day. I got up at 9:22 a.m., took a shower and was ready to go by 10 a.m. However, Susanne wanted to meet me for lunch before I left so I waited until 11:30 a.m. before joining her at a Subway store. Afterward I left for J’ville, feeling very excited again. Something strange happened on the way to Jacksonville. I was driving along and I happened to notice this truck (not an 18-wheeler but more like an F150 or something like that). It drove up to me very fast and then it slowed as we rode along side each other for aways. Of course, I had to look over at the truck and there on the side it said *Steve’s Trucking*. For those of you who don’t know, Steve was my late husband’s name and he was an independent trucker. To see this on the side of the vehicle made me feel like Steve was trying to tell me that he was watching out over me. I smiled as the truck then sped away. I had bought a GPS before I made this trip and it was very helpful, even though now and again I made a wrong turn. One such turn, about two blocks from my hotel, caused me to be hung up by a freight train for eight minutes! Even though I left Gainesville late in the morning, I still was able to get to my hotel, the Crowne Plaza, around 2 p.m. My room wasn’t ready yet so I had to wait about thirty minutes in the lobby. Then a bellman escorted me and my luggage to room 602. I played with my iPad until it was time to get ready for the show. I have to say the hotel had the slowest Wi-Fi I have ever experienced. I had called the front desk for a cab again and this time I had a Lincoln Execucar to take me to the concert at The Florida Theatre.
I picked up my ticket at Will Call again and waited for the doors to open. Since the show was at 8 p.m., the doors opened at 7 p.m. but we weren’t allowed into the venue until 7:30 p.m. I again found my front row seat easily and this time I was almost right in front of Justin! I loved listening to him sing, as always, and talk to the audience. He makes you feel as though you were sitting in his living room with him when he tells his stories. Someone on FB asked what songs Justin played from SOTWS. He sang *In Your Blue Eyes*, *One Day, Someday*, *The Western Sky*, *The Eastern Sun* and *What You Resist Persists*. Tonight he wore a white shirt with black dress pants and the same brown shoes. He looks fantastic in everything he wears. For some reason, tonight he didn’t throw his *Question* pic out to the audience, but rather sort of over his shoulder. The girl next to me brought a single rose for Justin and when he didn’t stop to take it from her, she threw it at him and almost beaned him! He had to duck quickly. Another girl also gave Justin flowers (wish I had been able to give him mine two nights before) and he signed one autograph for another girl. My Execucar was late picking me up but he did show eventually. Then I went back to my hotel about six feet off the ground! Oh, that Justin can have some effect on me!!!
Thursday, October 23, 2014
My last day on the road to see Justin Hayward – I feel like crying!!! I got up at 10:37 a.m. this morning (or at least I thought it was 10:37 a.m.) I rushed like crazy to get ready to leave since check-out was 11 a.m. There went my breakfast plans. However, when I got down to my car and was ready to go, I looked at the clock and saw that somehow the clock in my room was an hour fast!!! Grrrrrrrrr!!! So I left for Orlando anyway and decided when I was almost there to stop at the International House of Pancakes for a brunch. I got to my hotel at 1:10 p.m. and was told my room was ready and waiting. I liked that! Room 922 was beautiful, but I couldn’t find any way to bring up closed captioning on the TV as I had at the other hotels. The hotel had a shuttle to the venue and when I called to find out about it, I was told that other people were going too and it was leaving in a few minutes. Luckily I was dressed and ready to head out. Tonight Justin was playing at The Plaza Live in Orlando. I don’t know what I can say about his show that hasn’t been said hundreds of times -- the man is stunning! He sang the same songs as he had the previous two concerts and told the same jokes – and I still laughed at them. Justin makes the funniest faces when telling jokes that you can’t help but laugh. Tonight he wore a white dress shirt, the black slacks and brown shoes. The camera man from PBS was also at this show filming some short pieces to finish off the other taping. However, if you do watch the show when it reaches broadcast (somewhere around March, 2015), if Justin is wearing a blue shirt that was the original taping. If he’s wearing a white shirt that could have been in Jax or Orlando. I’m surprised they didn’t tell him to wear his blue shirt again for the sake of continuity. When Justin finished playing *Question*, as usual, he flipped his pic toward the audience. Now I have to say that sometimes it’s good to be tall and have long arms. There were three other gals who were reaching for the pic but I could tell that Justin had meant it for me since I was the only one who could reach it. I just extended my arm and plucked it off the stage. Then, to fulfill a promise made earlier, I turned to Shawn and gave the pic to her. She was so excited!!! She hugged me and her daughter hugged me. I felt really good about this and even though, having captured the elusive pic twice in three shows, I was going home pic-less, I had made two other people very happy! Thank you, Justin, for adding to my enjoyment of the shows!!
When I got outside, there was no cab waiting since the shuttle driver went off duty at 9:30 p.m. So I had to call for a cab and it was hard, with my bad knees, waiting for one to show up. But he finally did and once again, I floated above the back seat. I do hope Justin stays well, because he was sniffling the most during this concert. That seems to be a normal affliction for him, however, during all of the concerts I have ever seen! I don’t know if it’s a cold or an allergy or something unique to Justin, but he does sniffle a lot. Even with that, however, his voice is as strong and true as I’ve ever heard it. He can sing his heart out lustily or make it so low that you have to listen hard to pick up the words. He is a real performer on the stage. This will probably be my last time seeing him this year. I hear there may be a Spring, 2015 USA tour and, if so, I will do my best to attend some part of it. You never know when seeing The Moody Blues and/or Justin will be the last time and it’s something I am dreading with all my heart. I just can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had never discovered Justin nor what it will be like when he is no longer a fixture in it.
Friday, October 24, 2014
I’ll make this quick since there really is nothing to write about. I drove from Orlando to my home in Melbourne, thinking of the wondrous adventure I had this past week. I played SOTWS over and over on my CD player all the way home. Justin, thank you so much for everything you have done for me over my lifetime on the journey with you and The Moodies. Even though you will never know, you helped me so much when my husband passed away last year. Without Moody music, and yours in particular, I don’t know how I would have gotten through it. I’m still on the mend but each time I listen to you sing, I feel that much closer to perhaps one day being myself again. I’m sorry that I cry at your concerts now but your lyrics touch me on such a deep level that I’m consumed when I listen to them. A number of your songs have new and different meanings for me. May God bless you even more, Justin Hayward, for what you have given to so many people across the world. You are truly an angel on Earth!!!
Arline in Florida ß---------aka
Justin Fan 1 (and so proud of it)
P.S. Photos to follow when I can figure out (again) how to download my camera