REVIEW: Moody Blues singer Justin Hayward captures moods almost as well as group does
The Moody Blues’ stock-in-trade is thoughtful music: melancholy, melodramatic and, yes, even moody.
So it should have been no surprise when Moodies lead singer Justin Hayward’s concert Thursday at tapped that same vein – especially because Hayward sang nine Moodies songs among the 16 he performed in the 97-minute show.
The surprise is that Hayward, with just a second guitarist and keyboard player, was able to capture nearly all of the emotions – musical and vocal – those songs originally offered.
And the selections from his solo career, as well as his 1975 duet album “Blue Jays” with Moodies bassist John Lodge, fit exceptionally well among the group’s work. One solo song, his 1985 cover of Clifford T. Ward’s “The Best is Yet to Come,” was among the best in the show.
That might indicate how essential to The Moody Blues Hayward is.
His voice, though occasionally diminished from the memorable sound of The Moodies, was largely successful in recreating what made those songs so good – from the opening of The Moodies’ hit “Tuesday Afternoon,” which played solo but on which he captured not only the sound, but the tension and feeling of the original, if not the depth of the ache.
He was able to capture the 1960s vibe on “Lovely to See You,” the track from “On the Threshold of a Dream” that has become more popular than its singles (it got a big cheer from the crowd of something more than 400).
Hayward’s solo songs were uniformly good, including the three he played from his most recent disc, 2013’s “Spirits of the Western Sky.” “In Your Eyes” from that disc set a serene mood, and any frailties in his voice (Hayward’s now 70) only added to the affect. The title track was, as you would expect, a lush landscape that fit Hayward’s story of he and his late brother watching the western sky from their boyhood home.
Hayward introduced the songs from his album with Lodge by saying some of the things he wrote never seemed to fit The Moodies. Particularly good was “Where Are You Now,” which though written when Hayward was less than half the age he is now, was a powerful look back on a life. Alone on stage with just a guitar and voice, Hayward’s vocals suddenly became stronger.
Other solo songs also were good. “Forever Autumn,” the Moodies-esque surprise solo hit he had in 1978, was sung with aching intensity that elevated the song, and the crowd rewarded him with a big hand.
“The Wind of Heaven,” which he said he wrote as the title song from an upcoming movie about a veteran’s return from Afghanistan, was gentle and soul-searching.
But by far the best solo song was “The Best is Yet to Come.” A contemplative song that again played to his current voice, it was a devastating commentary on the hope that you have good years ahead, but a realization you no longer may.
But the Moodies hits were perhaps the best part of the show, and Hayward saved most of them for the end, when his voice seemed warmed and stronger.
“Never Comes the Day” was searing – a song of change in a relationship, it was a lovely tune sung lovely – and got great guitarist from Mike Dawes and keyboardist Julie Reagans. “Your Wildest Dreams” was more stark, but nicely captured the feeling of a former relationship from an even greater distance than when the song was release in 1986. It, too, got a big cheer.
The more upbeat “Question” from 1970 had some in the audience singing along -- and clapping along near the end.
And, of course, the main set closed with The Moodies’ biggest hit, a seven-minute “Nights in White Satin” – slow, studied and expertly played with a 12-string guitar, Hayward’s voice at its best – an aching wail.
The encore was The Moodies’ last U.S. Top 40 hit, 1988’s "I Know You're Out There Somewhere."
A sort of sequel to “Your Wildest Dreams," the song did what the best of The Moodies’ music does best: creates melancholy and a mood.
And Hayward solos did it almost as well.