Justin Hayward - photo by Michael Sherer
With The Moody Blues being one of the most respected, intelligent, and experimental bands to come out of ‘60’s England, and with more than 70 million records sold, their guitarist, singer, and songwriter Justin Hayward can quite comfortably afford to do whatever he fancies. For now, it’s touring in support of his recent solo album, “Spirits Of the Western Sky”. Hayward is employing a simple, understated approach here, with only another guitarist, the talented Mike Dawes, and keyboardist/background vocalist Julie Ragins accompanying him. Hayward’s fine voice and guitar skills are entirely intact, as is the leanness of his tall frame, which was smartly and neatly dressed.
Dawes underscored, accentuated, and added to what Hayward was doing on his guitar, also acoustic. This provided more dimension and atmosphere, which is precisely what Ragins did as well, with a great voice for added enhancement. The absence of drums didn’t present a problem, as it might in other cases.
Visually, a somewhat psychedelic, multicolored backdrop was in place, with fundamental lighting to illuminate the trio. The simple stage is low from the ground, making the audience feel more connected to it than a high one.
The Concert Hall, very close to Lincoln Center, is a very old, homey and unpretentious venue with great acoustics, making it an ideal setting to listen to this sparse and subtle set of songs. As expected, there were several Moody Blues tunes in the set in addition to the solo record ones. The Moodys’ hit ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ opened. There was also ‘It’s Up To You’, ‘You Can Never Go Home’, ‘Watching And Waiting’, ‘Your Wildest Dreams’, ‘Question, I Know You’re Out There Somewhere’, and, of course, their biggest hit of all, the haunting and lush ‘Nights In White Satin’.
Hayward told some interesting and often personal stories between several of the songs, which added color and further intimacy. He’s very well and soft spoken, and his English accent is easy to understand.
None of the songs were rocking types, as the more mellow ones were chosen. This wasn’t a rock concert, and the audience weren’t young, fist-pumping types. It was a much more thoughtful, delicate, and graceful affair, and a refreshing expression of how that comes across musically. I recommend it as a soothing tonic for any fan’s ears, mind, and heart.