All good things must come to an end. Now exceptionally great things, they go down in a cerulean blaze of glory to rival the most vivid borealis to ever grace the evening sky. And while the inevitable April 7 finale to The Moody Blues Cruise Return To The Isle Of Wight wasn’t exactly a “day that will live in infamy,” the sad conclusion certainly made Monday a lot bluer than usual. The floating legions may not have equaled the original festivalgoers in numbers, but the full-throated masses more than matched the passion of the original 700 thousand. That was in large part due to the extraordinary roster of Isle Of Wight veterans joining The Moodies for this year’s installment of the Cruise, including rock legends Roger Daltrey and Carl Palmer in addition to crowd favorites Lighthouse.
The wall-to-wall music from rock legends, Hall of Famers and million-record sellers was reason enough to sail the bounding main to parts unknown. But like the solo acoustic tours that Moody Blues guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Justin Hayward cherishes – which he recently professed to me as getting “to the purity and the real sweetness of the song easier” – the musical nuances of the long-distance voyage were the real rewards for the blissful passengers. And there were plenty of those subtle treasures for any oceanic travelers that happened to be paying attention. Witness the iconic Palmer’s deliberate pre-show preparation as he meticulously assembled his beloved drum kit before delivering a rhythmic celebration. Or tale after comfortable tale shared by the artists during the many intimate question and answer sessions – among them Hayward’s mirthful revelation of a misguided karaoke contest that ended with him offering to sing “My Funny Valentine” and his competitor eagerly and unknowingly selecting “Nights In White Satin.”
To be sure, there were limitless opportunities to behold musical brilliance; Hayward’s incredibly emotive performance of “Forever Autumn” during his Sunday afternoon up-close-and-personal session, Little River Band keyboardist Chris Marion’s lilting symphonic intro to “Cool Change,” Daltrey guitarist Simon Townshend’s sparkling rendition of “Going Mobile” and Daltrey’s nod to “The Man in Black” with a crowd pleasing Johnny Cash medley. Of course, any opportunity to hear the legendary Daltrey lead a band through its paces on the greatest rock song ever recorded, “Baba O’Riley,” is a chance to witness history. And then there are those mind-boggling never-to-be repeated happenings that people will be talking about 20 years from now; The Orchestra’s Mik Kaminski literally filling in at the last minute to deliver a rousing violin solo for Daltrey to close the aforementioned “Baba O’Riley.” Lest anyone think that the celebrated hosts failed to pull their musical weight, with performance after performance The Moody Blues reminded the cruisers why the band has sold an extraordinary 70 million albums worldwide and has been awarded an astonishing 14 platinum and gold discs – and reminded each and every one of the lucky passengers why it’s never too early to start planning for next year’s cruise.