Saturday, 4 July 2015

Live In 2015: Justin Hayward live at The Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl on Thursday 2nd July 2015

It was a very odd week indeed - one of my favourite musical artists Chris Squire of YES had passed away and now I find myself in Porthcawl (of all places) about to see one of my other favourite musicians of a certain vintage - Justin Hayward - perform his acoustic Spirits Of The Western Sky Tour in the UK.

As lead vocalist, guitarist & chief songwriter of The Moody Blues, Justin has clocked up more hits on both sides of the Atlantic and worldwide than most musicians alive today.

He has brought his successful Spirits Tour to the UK in support of his latest solo album Spirits Of The Western Sky.

But first up was a young English acoustic guitar player called Mike Dawes. With a Sold Out crowd of mainly over 50's, it was good to see them give the young man an enthusiastic welcome. His work tonight was all instrumental but he showed his skill on his guitar and the set just flew by.

He had an ease with the audience that had obviously come of spending many an hour on the stage and his rapport with tonight's audience grew as his set went by.
He is obviously very technically gifted and will hopefully go on to greater acclaim.

So after a short interval, where a lot of the people decided just to walk outside to the beach, it was a beautiful evening out there, (and you could see the Jupiter & Venus conjunction)

 Justin emerged onto the stage and lauched into a solo version of his & John Lodge's Blue Jays hit Blue Guitar.

It was a great song to start the evening - not a Moody's song - but not a solo song either (well, it WAS really). Perfect.

I'm also glad to report that this wasn't going to be a Moodies Unplugged session either.

A nice surprise was that Mike Dawes is also Justin's second guitarist on the tour playing both his acoustic and a black Telecaster.

Also accompanying Justin was Los Angeles singer/songwriter Julie Ragins on Keyboards and backing vocals. This trio has toured extensively through the United States so it came as no surprise that the sound and performance was excellent throughout.

I've seen Justin with the Moody Blues a few times before so I knew what to expect in terms of his voice but I was interested to see his treatment of the Moodies songs and to hear his own material live.

The songs from his Spirits album are very, very, good - right up there with his best songs. 

Of the 16 songs in the set, 9 were Moody Blues songs and with such a catalogue of songs to choose from it was inevitable that not everyone's favourites would be played.

Indeed, two of my favourites, The Moodies Driftwood and One Lonely Room from Justin's Songwriter album didn't get played but it was no matter as the quality of the song choices were excellent.

With new songs such as In Your Blue Eyes and The Western Sky competing in quality with such Moodies classics as Tuesday Afternoon and Watching & Waiting, it was an evening for the songwriting connoisseur.  

Justin was on stage for almost two hours and the evening just flew by. Justin tells a few war stories about his past and about how the songs were written but tonight was all about the power of the song. People may not realise just how popular Justin & The Moody Blues still are, especially over the pond in the USA.

Tonight, Justin only played his 6 & 12 string acoustic guitars but with Mike & Julie providing the accompaniment it was perfect for the venue.

With a collection of new songs One Day Someday, Eastern Sky & What You Resist Persists - Justin shows just how strong the new album is compared to his substantial back catalogue and by now had received several standing ovations.

The next three songs however just brought the house down.

The major US hit In Your Wildest Dreams was followed by a show stopping performance of Justin's solo hit from The War Of The Worlds, Forever Autumn. Again getting a standing ovation. This was quickly followed by a fabulous performance of the Moodies song, Question.

This was the end of the set and the crowd were on their feet begging for more. And he obliged.

And what a song for an encore - the REAL CLASSIC - Nights In White Satin.

But Justin had one more brilliant song up his sleeve, the fabulous I Know You're Out There Somewhere.

It was a lovely way to finish a pristine performance by an absolute master of songwriting and performing,

Although he will always be associated with the Moody Blues, Justin Hayward is building a considerable canon of work in his own right and it was a pleasure to hear him perform these songs that don't get a airing on the Moody Blues tours.

So, Porthcawl was treated to a superb show tonight. Let's just hope the appreciation that was shown tonight is temptation enough to get him back to Wales.

all photographs by Macwood Fleet

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