“Breathe deep the gathering gloom” is one of the memorable poetic phrases created by the Moody Blues in the heyday of their popularity. “Late Lament” was actually a poem at the beginning of the Moody Blues’ biggest hit, “Nights in White Satin.” The song was written and sung by Justin Hayward and after more than 50 years Hayward is still recreating the song live on tour. The ethereal orchestration may be missing these days, but the song is just as powerful, popular, and meaningful as ever.
Hayward, the Moody Blues’ lead singer, guitarist and writer of the majority of their best-known songs, visited Tucson’s Fox Theatre August 18th to a packed house of faithful and excited fans. Julie Ragins on keyboards/ backup vocals and Mike Dawes on lead guitar completed the trio on stage. The symphonic sound of the Moody Blues was very adequately covered by Ragins’ synthesizer skills and Dawes’ guitar wizardry.
Hayward augmented the music with stories from the past and present. Early in the set, he spoke about the ghosts in his life, “Most of my life I have been contemplating a ghost. That is the ghost of myself. Even today, I was doing an interview and the interviewer asked me what’s happening now and what are you doing next? Within three or four minutes, I know they are going to get to it. They asked what was happening with that Justin back in 1967 and ‘Nights’ and everything? It’s true that a lot of us have to contemplate the ghosts of ourselves when we are reminded of it. In fact, he’s here tonight. “ The stagehand brought out a life-sized cardboard cut out of a black and white 1967 rendition of a youthful Hayward. Hayward has aged well as he is quite tall and dressed conservatively.
He also spoke about growing up in Swindon, 70 miles west of London, sharing a room and listening to music with his older brother. Years later, when he came to America for the first time with the Moody Blues, he got to visit towns with historical musical influence that he had only heard about, such as Tupelo, Miss. and Lubbock, Tex., the birthplaces of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, respectively.
Hayward’s crystal clear voice is remarkably true to the classic Moody Blue’s records. The set consisted primarily of Moody Blues’ songs that included “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Lovely to See You,” “Question,” and “The Story in Your Eyes.” It would be impossible for him to cover all of the hits from the Moody Blues’ songbook in one concert, but there was plenty to whet the appetite of any fan. Hayward also performed several songs from his solo career, “The Western Sky” and “In Your Blue Eyes.”
The talented, fingers-picking guitarist, Dawes, served as the evening’s opening act. He played solo acoustic guitar in his usual animated full-throttle manner. The set was exceptionally short that left the fans wanting more.
The voice, the powerful presence oozed confidence as Hayward gave the packed house exactly what they came to hear, an evening of classic Moody Blues music. The fans returned the favor by giving Hayward the adoration and many standing ovations throughout the evening.