Justin Hayward, the singer and guitarist with Moody Blues who went on to enjoy a glorious solo career, appeared at the centre of the stage. He’d been booked by Wayne to reprise his beautiful international solo hit, Forever Autumn, which was a major hit in 1978.
Hayward looked great, a performer who belied his 75-years-young age, while his vocals were dreamy.
It transported tens of thousands of people back to a time and a place in which the prog rock doyen was flying high in the charts.
Hayward enjoyed himself almost as much as the fans on that recent tour.
“It was extraordinary to be a part of it," he said.
Performing Forever Autumn and The Eve of the War was as much of a thrill for him as it was for fans.
“I got that vibe when I came on for Eve Of The War. It was almost as though the audience felt: ‘Oh, it’s him, we’re in safe hands.’”
Forever Autumn followed a litany of success, both with Moody Blues and as a solo artist. Lest we forget, Hayward’s first solo album, Songwriter, was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
“I was really glad to have done it The War of the Worlds. It was something that I wasn’t sure about when I was first sent the demo of Forever Autumn.
"The reason that I agreed to do it was quite funny. There just happened to be a young lad who worked at Moody Blues Record shop who was knocking around when I played the demo. He stood there and listened to it and said: ‘You ought to do that, mate, that’s perfect for you.’”
So he did. And the rest is history.
Having featured on Jeff Wayne’s recent tour, Hayward is now back on the road in his own right with a solo tour planned for September, which includes a headline show at Birmingham Town Hall on September 12.
Justin said, “I’m so very pleased to be back on the road in the UK this September, with a set full of old songs and new, as well as the stories around them.
"With me will be the amazing, award winning guitarist Mike Dawes along with multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Julie Ragins – a renowned recording artist in her own right – and Karmen Gould, the finest young flute player of her generation. We can’t wait to bring our show home."
Justin Hayward’s career is now in its fifth decade. He is best known as the vocalist, lead guitarist and composer for the iconic Moody Blues, whose hits include the masterful ‘Nights in White Satin’, ‘Tuesday Afternoon’, ‘Question’, ‘The Voice’ plus other classic, era and genre-defining hits.
These laid the foundation for the incredible success story of the Moody Blues – as well as Hayward’s solo work – which continues to this day.
Already established as a songwriter, he joined the Moody Blues in 1966. Hitting his stride immediately with 'Fly Me High,' he followed it with ‘Nights in White Satin’ and ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ from the seminal album Days of Future Past.
The Moody Blues sold 70 million albums worldwide, which includes 18 platinum and gold LPs. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
He's particularly pleased that Birmingham Town Hall features on his forthcoming tour. It was a key venue for The Moody Blues as they started their ascent.
“The town hall is always very enjoyable. It’s a very special feeling going back there. When I first joined the band, they were based in London and the Birmingham gigs were always very important.
"At first, we were doing clubs but they we took a step up and moved into the Town Hall. It was a big step to move from clubs to the town hall, so it’s special for that reason.”
His set will include songs from his Spirits album, a couple of other solo albums and plenty of Moody Blues tunes – no surprise, given the tour name: The Voice Of Moody Blues – Justin Hayward.
“It’s all about the songs really. I feel that the songs mean a lot to people. They have a place in people’s lives. I know exactly that feeling because I know what songs mean to me. I can listen to a Dusty Springfield song and be transported back to a time and a place.
“I feel very lucky to have that, to have that catalogue of songs.”
The Moody Blues are synonymous with Hayward. He wrote 20 of the group’s 27 post-1967 singles and remained in the band until 1974.
The Moody Blues sold a reported 60 million records and among the hit singles that Hayward wrote were 'Nights in White Satin', 'Tuesday Afternoon', 'Voices in the Sky', 'Never Comes the Day', 'Question', 'The Story in Your Eyes', 'Driftwood', 'The Voice', 'Blue World', 'Your Wildest Dreams', 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' and 'English Sunset'.
The band also enjoyed huge success in the USA, which gave them – and him – longevity.
He’s excited about reimagining some of those songs with his present band. “The musicians on this tour really bring them to life. The musicians who are with me are so good that I can just relax on the stage and be carried along.”
Hayward’s talent has been recognised by his peers, not least with his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2018.
“That was really driven by the Moody Blues fans. I was so, so pleased for them that they got what they really wanted for the band. It was always very important for them.”
More recently, in 2022, he was appointed an OBE for his services to the music industry.
“To be a part of that community of songwriters is wonderful. I’ve always believed that it is about songs. Marty Wilde told me very early on that to survive, you had to write your own material. That’s what I bought to the Moodys. You know, really, I’m just a normal bloke who plays a guitar and sings a bit.
“I still look forward to being on the road, very much. I love being with the crew and the other musicians. That’s where I’m completely happy. I hope the phone keeps ringing. I’ve got gigs coming up next year. I’m still offered gigs, which is really great.”