Justin Hayward and Mike Dawes Mesmerize at the Lobero Theatre

Article Contributed by L. Paul Mann | Published on Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Classic rock legend Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues brought his solo project to the historic Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. The intimate venue, with near-perfect acoustics, just celebrated its 150th anniversary as California's oldest continuous performance hall. It was a fitting place for Hayward to perform his enthralling set.

Mike Dawes | Lobero Theatre

The show opened with a unique performance by Mike Dawes, a musical magician on acoustic guitar. Dawes, who would later join Hayward as part of his backing band, first captivated the audience with a dynamic performance. His five-song set, filled with humorous improvisations and a mix of covers and original songs, was a testament to his musical prowess. Kicking off the evening with his signature track, “Boogie Shred,” Dawes showcased his impressive fingerstyle technique, blending classical, folk, and Latin influences with a funky edge that resonated throughout the venue. Injecting humor into his act, Dawes engaged the crowd with quirky remarks like, “Everybody say sausages and put your hands together!” In a beautiful dedication, Mike also played his fingerstyle cover of Van Halen’s “Jump” (please remain seated), even jumping during his performance.

Justin Hayward | Lobero Theatre | Santa Barbara, CA

After a short intermission, Hayward took the stage before a mesmerizing backdrop of an ancient castle overlooking an open ocean. As the night progressed, various lighting effects transformed the backdrop, creating different moods, from a brilliant sunrise to a cold, stormy sea. It was a perfect setting for Hayward's aptly moody music, which blended classical genres with rock, folk, and electronic underpinnings.

Justin Hayward | Lobero Theatre

In the ethereal ambiance of Justin Hayward’s performance at the Lobero, a sense of nostalgia and introspection filled the air as the Moody Blues frontman and solo artist reflected on the enduring impact of music from a collective youth. Hayward’s velvety vocals and poignant lyrics transported the audience back to an era of British pop, resonating with timeless charm and creating a deep connection with the listeners.

Justin Hayward | Lobero Theatre

Accompanied by his agile guitarist Mike Dawes, Hayward’s setlist of 20 songs, including a medley of Moody Blues classics, captivated listeners with melodic richness and emotional depth. Hayward and his band exuded the essence of seasoned troubadours, delivering a musical journey through the decades.

flutist Karmen Gould, Justin Hayward and keyboardist Julie Ragins

While the absence of a drummer left a void in the sound, flutist Karmen Gould and keyboardist Julie Ragins seamlessly integrated subtle percussion elements into the band’s performance, adding a unique texture to the familiar tunes. Ragins’ use of a digital keyboard to recreate the iconic Mellotron sound from the past was a testament to the band’s innovative spirit, leaving the audience impressed with their musical adaptability.

Justin Hayward | Santa Barbara, CA

The highlight of the evening came with the powerful rendition of “Question,” showcasing Hayward’s masterful acoustic guitar work and thought-provoking lyrics that still resonate today. The encore segment saw Hayward transitioning to electric guitar mode, infusing bluesy licks into songs like “Blue Guitar” and the classic Moody Blues hits “The Story in Your Eyes” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere.” Hayward’s unwavering stage presence and distinct voice left an indelible mark on the concert hall, ensuring that his music will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.