In the twilight of the 1960s, my young ears were first introduced to a sound, unique and transformative, emanating from my trusty AM transistor radio. It was the unforgettable “Nights in White Satin,” now an anthem of progressive rock, featured as the leading single on “Days of Future Passed” by The Moody Blues, a promising British rock band hailing from Birmingham. This seminal work, among the first concept albums, took its listeners on a voyage through the ebbs and flows of a single day – dawn, noon, and dusk. The album wove together classical symphony, vivacious rock beats, and the resounding, powerful vocals of lead singer Justin Hayward, painting a vibrant sonic tapestry.
On May 26th, the distinguished Justin Hayward graced the stage of Windsor’s Chrysler Theatre for a solo performance. The majority of the audience appeared to be a curated collection from the epoch of the 60s and 70s – people who had come of age with the Moody Blues’ soundtrack echoing in their ears and had convened to honor and re-experience the timeless music.
Hayward kicked off the concert solo, rendering a poignant performance of “The Eastern Sun,” a personal composition from his 2013 album “Spirits of the Western Sky.” As he concluded his second piece, “Driftwood,” Hayward introduced three talented musicians – Julie Ragan, Karman Gould, and Mike Dawes – who joined him onstage to form the evening’s ensemble.
However, it was the third melody, “Tuesday Afternoon,” another chart-topper from “Days of Future Passed,” that truly ignited the audience’s enthusiasm. With Hayward’s still robust and eerie voice resonating alongside the flute, guitar, and synthesizer, the crowd was transported back half a century, anticipating a truly memorable night.
Throughout the night, Hayward regaled the audience with personal anecdotes and insights into the genesis of his songs. He shared vivid memories of viewing sunsets with his late brother from their shared bedroom and the enchanting landscapes of Wiltshire in the west of England.
During a brief interlude to tune his guitar, he quipped, “Some say we spend a third of our life sleeping. I reckon I’ve spent a good few years of mine just tuning guitars!” eliciting chuckles from the audience.
A significant moment in the evening came when Hayward recounted a rush session back in 1970 at Decca Records. With nothing prepared, he presented two sketches of songs written in his West London flat. Merging the two pieces resulted in the birth of “Question,” a poignant critique of the Vietnam war, and an homage to their student audience questioning the war. As he strummed the fast-paced classical guitar intro to “Question,” the auditorium reverberated with applause.
The evening’s repertoire featured a stream of classic Moody Blues hits including “Night’s in White Satin,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” “The Voice” & “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere.” Stirred by the music, a number of audience members rose to their feet in spontaneous dance, punctuating the night with several standing ovations. Songs that have etched a place in our hearts for over five decades found new resonance in this beautiful tribute, demonstrating the timeless relevance of a truly classic catalogue.
The night’s initial spark was provided by Hayward’s guitarist Mike Dawes, a virtuoso from Guildford, UK, who presented a mesmerizing set of classical guitar. Following his solo performance, Dawes joined forces with Julie, Karman, and Justin to forge an ensemble that promised – and delivered – an unforgettable night of music.
Justin Hayward with Mike Dawes
May 26, 2023
All photos by Ted Kloske