It’s hard to remember when I first heard ELO. What I do remember as a kid was the stunning gatefold double album sleeve from the classic Out Of The Blue. At first it was the visuals that hooked me, and still fro, even to this day. But I do certainly have memories of lots of those songs in my early years, before I really started getting into the music in my teens.
So, here I am, thirty-odd years after getting into them, finally getting a chance to see the Brummie Bearded wonder, Jeff Lynne, playing all this stuff live. Perhaps the first thing to notice when you look at the set list is the really obvious one: looks at the hits. Very very few bands can have a back catalogue as stuffed to the gunwales with quality as this. Even for the casual listener, it’s a pretty decent bet that you would know at least a dozen of these songs well. And you are likely to have heard most of the rest, even if you didn’t know the artist.
For a fan though, there is more of a conundrum: with a back catalogue THAT good, what do you leave out? Well, for a start, there is not a sausage from 1981’s rather brilliant Time album (so, no Twilight, Hold On Tight or Here Is The News. All of them were hits). No fan faves like the under-regarded Four Little Diamonds. Tonight, there’s no Do Ya, though Jeff tells us that we are getting the band’s first ever single, 10538 Overture, for the first time on the tour, so that will just have to do!.
No matter. The show starts in the best possible style, with Tightrope, for 1976’s A New World Record. This just happens to be my favourite ELO song ever, so I’m already in an advanced state of fan nerdgasm by the time the projections, fanfare and swirling strings have kicked into the number itself. It also says something when songs as strong as Evil Woman and Showdown can sit at the start of the show. From the outset the audience (me included) are cheering and singing every word. Every song is received with unrestrained glee, and this even included new songs from the latest album Alone In The Universe (of which there are only two: the achingly beautiful When I was Boy, and the fun chug of Ain’t It A Drag).
There’s really no let up: it’s all killer and no filler. Hit after hit, delivered with verve and more than a little twinkle in the eye. Jeff isn’t one for dazzling stage repartee, but does the odd link sounding happy and more than little genuinely surprised at the undoubted pouring of genuine warmth and love the band are getting. This seems to be a them of this tour.
Just as important, some of these songs have been chosen because he knows that fans love them, and because they haven’t had much of an airing. so the gorgeous Steppin’ Out and Secret Messages get a great reception, for example.
As you’d expect from the line up, the quality of the playing is top notch, but the other impressive dimension is the staging. The sound isn’t bad at all for an arena gig, and the projections, lights and lasers are top division stuff. The whole package is simply irresistible.
Even though the energy levels are high (from audience and band alike), the last half dozen numbers are difficult to top as a conclusion to an arena show by anyone. By this stage we’re all singing at the top of our voices, loving every minute. The roar that greets Mr Blue Sky is even more deafening that what has gone before. It’s a joyous experience.
The final act is the encore, the usual drill for an ELO show – Roll Over Beethoven, before the lights go up and the show is over. It’s not a cheap night out, but boy was it ever worth it, because it truly doesn’t get much better than this.
- Evil Woman
- All Over The World
- When I Was A Boy
- Livin’ Thing
- Ain’t It A Drag
- Can’t Get It Out Of My Head
- 10538 Overture
- Secret Messages
- Steppin’ Out
- Shine A Little Love
- Wild West Hero
- Telephone Line
- Turn To Stone
- Don’t Bring Me Down
- Sweet Talkin’ Woman
- Mr Blue Sky
- Encore: Roll Over Beethoven (youtube link)