JUSTIN HAYWARD

Prog - - Limelight - DAVID WEST

Apacked house greets Justin Hayward on the Es­sex coast tonight. It’s the sort of venue where ush­erettes sell ice cream in the au­di­to­rium be­tween acts, and Justin Hayward is on at an un­fash­ion­ably early 8.15pm, but while it might not be very rock’n’roll, the sound is crys­tal clear. Hayward, on acous­tic gui­tar, is joined by Julie Ra­gins, a tour­ing mem­ber of The Moody Blues, on key­boards and back­ing vo­cals; and gui­tarist Mike Dawes, who switches be­tween acous­tic and elec­tric.

The open­ing Out And In es­tab­lishes that Hayward isn’t try­ing to repli­cate the sound of the band with which he’s most associated, how­ever much the set draws on their great­est hits. The crowd recog­nises Tues­day Af­ter­noon al­most in­stantly, and the bouncy riff brings the room to life. This Morn­ing, from 1975’s Blue Jays al­bum, lends it­self to the acous­tic for­mat, with nim­ble fin­ger-pick­ing gui­tar work from Hayward that was smoth­ered by strings on the stu­dio ver­sion.

“We’re go­ing to do some new things and old things in the show. I’ve got a lot of old things,” Hayward jokes be­fore Lovely To

See You. And the mid­dle of the set sees the singer dip­ping into his solo work, par­tic­u­larly 2013’s Spir­its Of The Western Sky, while pass­ing through his 70s and 80s re­leases like Song­writer and Night Flight.

In Your Blue Eyes, The Western Sky and new com­po­si­tion The Wind Of Heaven are all well crafted and grace­fully per­formed, al­though they lack the pro­gres­sive scope and am­bi­tious struc­tures of the Mood­ies ma­te­rial. They’re just a bit Ra­dio 2. Hayward’s voice has aged well, and while he seems slightly care­ful in the early stages when­ever the high notes come into view, by the mid-point he sounds con­fi­dent and com­fort­able.

Dawes, all tossed hair and sculpted cheek­bones, pro­vides taste­ful ac­com­pa­ni­ment, and his per­cus­sive use of the body of his acous­tic gui­tar adds a lit­tle drive to One Day, Some­day. For­ever Au­tumn goes down a storm, while the folky Never Comes The Day gets the au­di­ence clap­ping along.

The fi­nal stretch fea­tures the sort of ma­te­rial most song­writ­ers can only dream of, be­gin­ning with Your Wildest Dreams, which sounds gor­geous in this acous­tic for­mat, with­out the heavy pro­duc­tion of the 1988 record­ing. “I need your help in this song,” con­fesses Hayward be­fore Ques­tion. “There’s a line in the mid­dle I can’t get to any more.”

And true to his word, Hayward leaves the high notes for the au­di­ence, who are only too happy to oblige. But he has no trou­ble hit­ting all the big mo­ments in Nights In White Satin, which earns a stand­ing ova­tion, and he en­cores with I Know You’re Out There Some­where. With ma­te­rial like that, Hayward just can’t miss.

“HAYWARD ISN’T

TRY­ING TO REPLI­CATE THE SOUND OF THE

MOOD­IES, HOW­EVER MUCH THE SET DRAWS ON THEIR HITS.” MAN OF THE HOUR: JUSTIN HAYWARD. L-R: JUSTIN HAYWARD, MIKE DAWES, JULIE RA­GINS.

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