@ THE DANFORTH MUSIC HALL, TORONTO
MAY 28, 2023
The Danforth Music Hall is the perfect venue for Justin Hayward to bring his current tour. It is almost as if the theatre was built for him, with such fine acoustics, and Hayward made the most of it on a warm Sunday evening, and acoustics is the keyword. This was a night where acoustic guitars and the human voice shone. People from London, Chicago, Vancouver and many other places came to see Hayward and I cannot imagine anyone leaving disappointed.
The show opened with Mike Dawes, who also plays guitar for Hayward. Dawes does things with just an acoustic guitar that do not seem real. As he said when introducing himself, he “uses every inch of the instrument.” And he does. He supports himself by playing bass and percussion on the one guitar. While he does use pedals and some looping, he plays 100% live and he was a brilliant opening act. He quickly got the audience on his side when he opened with his own composition, “Boogie Shred” but it was his covers that the audience seemed to enjoy the most. Dawes’ take on Van Halen’s “Jump” and Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” were strong and original arrangements which maintained the original melodies. His chatter and jokes were appreciated and made for an entertaining 30 minutes.
But it was Hayward that people came to see, and after a short intermission, Hayward took to the stage, alone with an acoustic guitar and went straight into “The Eastern Sky” from his 2013 album Spirits Of The Western Sky. He was then joined on stage by his long-time keyboardist Julie Ragins for the Moody Blues song “Driftwood” from1978 ’s Octave. Before the song was finished, Dawes had joined the two on stage with his acoustic guitar and at the end, flutist Karmen Gould was on stage for the crowd pleasing “Tuesday Afternoon” from 1967’s Days Of Future Passed. The band was now all set for the rest of the evening.
Hayward performed the hits, including “Nights In White Satin”, “Your Wildest Dreams”, and “The Voice”, but he also took some deep dives into The Moody Blues’ discography and his own solo career. He performed the stirring “Western Sky” and told a great story about growing up in his hometown of Swindon. Although the song was performed beautifully, it was the story he told that made it that more special. He chatted throughout the night with stories about The Moody Blues and his life. This made for a remarkably intimate evening. It had the feeling of being a guest in his home and he had a guitar and was telling stories and singing.
It was also a joy to hear him perform classic album cuts, such as “Never Comes The Day”, “Hope And Pray” from the criminally overlooked Keys Of The Kingdom, and the classic “The Actor” from 1968’s In Search Of The Lost Chord. It was also a joy to hear the band’s arrangement of “Forever Autumn” from Jeff Wayne’s War Of The World.
All too soon the show came to an end with “The Question” and “Nights In White Satin”. Very quickly the band returned to the stage for their encore of “The Story In Your Eyes” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”. Again, great versions of the classic songs. As with the entire show, the songs are stripped down and performed acoustically and work in this configuration.
Hayward performed a solid show with hits and deep cuts to please just about everyone. The three standing ovations throughout the show and at the end said all one needed to know. The only complaint one could have is that he could have played longer, but that is a compliment rather than a criticism. Hayward, along with his band, seemed to be enjoying themselves and provided a wonderful evening of songs, stories and emotion.
(Photography by Andrea Badgley)