Justin Hayward + Mike Dawes @ The Royal & Derngate, Northampton – 22nd September 2022

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When I tell you that guitar virtuoso Mike Dawes plays the whole guitar, I mean the whole thing. Not content with some frenetic fingering on the fretboard, he also beats out a rhythm on the body, and his skills are enough to make any amateur throw down their guitar in exasperation. However, as a seasoned musician Mike understands that sometimes it’s not what you play, but what you don’t, and after dazzling us with covers of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ and Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ he delivers a sparse version of The 1975’s ‘Be My Mistake’, which leaves plenty of room for the listener to infer their own meaning. Mike’s performance is very upbeat, and it doesn’t take long for the crowd to warm to his natural effervescence, and his cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’, on which he puts his own inimitable mark, ensures he bows out on a high.

Against a backdrop that looks like a 70’s prog rock album cover (sunset, crumbling castle, crashing waves) Justin Hayward appears in typically understated style. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, he holds the audience in a kind of suspended animation as he opens his set with ‘The Eastern Sun’. The fine acoustics of the Derngate theatre means that every note rings out clearly, and while it might be something of a cliché, you could really hear a pin drop as Justin’s authoritative voice commands the crowd’s full attention, his vocalisation has aged like a fine wine, and his rich timbre fills every nook and cranny of the auditorium. For the rest of the set, he’s joined by a trio of musicians (including the return of Mike Dawes) who add warmth and texture to songs such as ‘Driftwood’ and ‘Tuesday Afternoon’.

Thankfully, Justin isn’t the type of artist to turn his back on his past (and with a past as illustrious as his, why would he?) and tonight’s set is a nice mixture of classic Moody Blues tunes interspersed with solo cuts, and despite the years that separate ‘Hope And Pray’ and ‘The Western Sky’, they sit together very well. Justin bestrews stories from his career throughout, and gives us the inside scoop on ‘The Voice’, along with that for latest single ‘Living For Love’. Having performed ‘Nights In White Satin’ thousands of times you could forgive Justin for turning in a lacklustre rendition, yet he knows that this song means so much to so many people, and he treats it with the tenderness and care it deserves, and it makes for a grandiose conclusion.

Of course, Justin and band return for three well-deserved (and well-earned encores), the last of which, ‘Blue Guitar’, finds Justin alone with his acoustic guitar, which is just as he arrived, and brings the evening full circle.

Justin Hayward Set List:
 

  1. The Eastern Sun
  2. Driftwood
  3. Tuesday Afternoon
  4. The Actor
  5. Hope And Pray
  6. The Western Sky
  7. The Voice
  8. Living For Love
  9. Forever Autumn
  10. Never Comes The Day
  11. Your Wildest Dreams
  12. Question
  13. Nights In White Satin

Encores:

  1. The Story In Your Eyes
  2. I Know Your Out There Somewhere
  3. Blue Guitar

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