Words & Pics By David Thrower
Jeff Lynne has been involved with some of the greatest music and musicians the World has ever experienced – The Move, Tom Petty, The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Bryan Adams, Joe Walsh – and given each artist and their material a wonderful, strangely magical glow. Tonight, however, was to recognize the Electric Light Orchestra (with one minor exception), by far his greatest achievement and the catalog of songs that have entered the consciousness of every living soul on the planet, music lover or not.
Supported by British country act The Shires and Keane frontman Tom Chaplin the huge ELO juggernaut rolled into Hull ‘en masse’. Surrounded by a stage set that resembled a row of tower blocks and capped by the iconic spaceship made famous on three of the band’s album covers – ‘A New World Record’, ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘Discovery’ – such a huge expanse of stage may have troubled most acts but when the 13-strong incarnation of Lynne’s super group (sadly without keyboard wizard Richard Tandy who missed the event due to illness) strode out to the orchestral strains of ‘Standin’ in the Rain’ it was evident that both quality and quantity count.
What followed was 100 minutes of harmonious melody, underpinned by the classic two-cellos one-violin trademark ELO sound giving each song added depth, that had the packed stadium out of their seats accompanying every word as they danced well into the night – myself included. ‘When I Was a Boy’ was the only ‘new’ track of the evening having appeared on ‘Alone in the Universe’, Lynne’s last outing as ELO, and ‘Handle with Care’ was a nod to the wonderful Traveling Wilburys but everything else was plucked from a back-catalogue of pure delight reaching as far forward as 1981s ‘Time’ album; ‘Twilight’ pulsed to the strobe of lasers as they kissed the sky, ‘Rockaria!’, complete with its ‘opera singers singing rock ‘n’ roll so pure’, belied the songs age with its drive, ‘Xanadu’, the band’s only UK number one, has always sounded better with Jeff on lead vocal (to my ageing earholes) and tonight was no exception and ‘Sweet Talkin’ Woman’, for me the most succinct slice of pure ELO as you’re likely to hear, had me dad-dancing and waving my arms like a loon, helpless in a warm, musical embrace.
The closing triumvirate of ‘Turn to Stone’, ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ and ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ (thankfully a reality weather-wise) showed just what a fantastic band the Electric Light Orchestra have always been, able to take rock ‘n’ roll’s pulsing heart, throw in a kitchen sink production, underscore with strings and, in the case of the penultimate song, even chuck in a disco beat.
As the band drew the night to a close with a rousing rendition of their 1973 single ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, their take on the Chuck Berry classic, amidst a visual smorgasbord of laser and light it was plain to see why Lynne had brought the band out of semi-retirement having realised the public’s affection for ELO during a one-off show at Hyde Park a few years back.
Catchy and concise the Electric Light Orchestra delivered some of the greatest songs this or any, World has ever heard and with Jeff Lynne have always had a visionary, single-minded leader who always put the music first. In ‘The Story of a Rock and Roll Band’ Randy Newman sings ‘I love that ELO’, a simple statement and one which sums up my feelings exactly.
I have seen the face of God. He has a perm.