If you are a Moody Blues fan, it’s hard to find fault with a show where you get to hear some of that band’s biggest hits delivered in an intimate, small-theater setting far removed from the big arenas one would normally expect. Particularly one where the voice behind said hits sounds as strong as Justin Hayward did this past Thursday night at Seattle’s Neptune Theatre.
Performing a solid, if somewhat pedestrian setlist on the final American show of a tour promoting his new solo album Spirits Of the Western Sky, Justin Hayward certainly accomplished that much.
Opening the main set with “Tuesday Afternoon” and closing with “Nights In White Satin” – arguably the Moody Blues’ two best-known songs – Hayward immediately established that this would be a night about giving the people what they came to see (albeit in somewhat limited fashion).
Even so, there was a nagging, undeniable feeling at the Neptune on Thursday that some imperceptible thing was missing.
And no, it wasn’t the orchestra or even the mellotrons that effectively add that extra “oomph” factor to the Moody Blues’ big, symphonic rock sound. Even without a drummer, keyboardist Julie Ragins had that part covered nicely with her synthesizer parts. Hayward also remained in fine voice throughout the night, hitting all the high notes on “Tuesday” and the rest flawlessly. But part of the reason for that may have been Hayward’s apparent reluctance to tackle some of the more rocking material from the Moody Blues’ vast catalog (and yes, while it has never been recognized as their strong suit, the Moody Blues have been known to rock on occasion).
This made for a bit of a long, overly mellow lag between the hits. As good as the songs from Spirits Of the Western Sky are (and some of the ones he played, including “The Western Sky” and “What You Resist Persists,” did in fact sound quite good), they also made for a very sleepy mid-show stretch. To his credit, Hayward did his best to better pace this by telling some amusing stories in between the songs.
But a few more familiar-sounding rockers in between the quieter, more introspective songs would have done wonders to elevate this show from being merely a decent night out, to something far more memorable. As cool – and unexpected – as it was to hear rarely played chestnuts “Lovely To See You” and “I Dreamed Last Night” (from Hayward’s Blue Jays collaboration with Moody Blues bandmate John Lodge), this show could have exponentially benefited from a midway pickup like, say, “The Story In Your Eyes.”
This was particularly frustrating because Hayward was also packing one hotshot guitarist with his small-band lineup in the form of Mike Dawes. In a way-too-brief opening solo set on the acoustic guitar, Dawes dazzled the Seattle crowd with his dizzying technique. Unfortunately, Dawes’ axe skills were utilized much more sparingly when playing backup to Hayward, most notably towards the end with the Moodys’ rocker “Question.”
If this sounds like a bad review, it’s really not.
Justin Hayward sounded just fine (especially his voice, which showed no signs of his age). The small band likewise complemented him well, and the hits you came to hear – at least the really big ones – were delivered in versions surprisingly faithful to the records. But for a guy with as rich a catalog of great songs as Hayward has, and performing with a small band as good as this, it just would have been nice to hear him mix it up a little more.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00AU15HPC] [amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00KS6ERUK] [amazon template=iframe image&asin=B000002GNC]