Jeff Lynne's ELO, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews
Jeff Lynne's ELO, O2 Arena
Jeff Lynne's ELO, O2 Arena
The Brummie pop genius returns - how sunny does he sound today?
It was one of those bright spring days when it seemed every other radio station was playing “Mr Blue Sky”. It certainly didn’t feel like 30 years since ELO toured. But the fans at the O2, last night, knew exactly how long it’d been. Some may even have been counting the years. And the anticipation of whether Jeff Lynne could still cut it, was palpable. In the lengthy queues and security checks, conversation naturally turned to how exactly the 68-year-old might manage the energy of those hits.
The main man shuffled on just after nine, following a slightly syrupy performance from support act, The Feeling. He looked cheery, hairy and healthy – not unlike Chas from Chas’n’Dave, in fact. After muttering some welcomes in his affable Brummie tones, Lynne looked around to check everyone was on stage. The musicians included three keyboards (including original ELO man Richard Tandy), strings, drums, some additional guitars, and an opera singer. A series of intergalactic-themed videos – the new album is called “Alone in the Universe” – were projected behind the stage.
The repertoire hadn't lost any of its feel-good magic
The band then launched into “Tightrope”, with cascading violins and cellos tumbling into a cheery rolling-piano motif. The piano juxtaposed with the back-projections made the room feel momentarily like a giant pub perched at the end of time. Next up was “Evil Woman” with its West Coast soul-disco guitar riffs. Half way through the man in front of me turned to his wife, wide-eyed, and pronounced “My word, they really are dead good.”
Of course they were. Lynne would never have allowed anything less – nor could he have written such complex-yet-easy material without a perfectionist streak a mile long. Every detail had been thought through, from the musicians in the band and sound system, to the impressive light show and arresting projections. As for the man himself, his voice and guitar – and, seemingly, hair – hadn’t moved an inch in all those years.
Nor had the repertoire lost any of its feel good magic. That was no surprise. After all, it’s ELO’s resurging popularity – and constant requests for live shows – that made all this happen in the first place. Once upon a time the words “cheese“ and “guilty pleasure“ would be bandied around in relation to the band. These days cheese is back on the menu and no-one feels remotely guilty.
From start to finish the stalls comprised a sea of silver heads – the demographic was decidedly mature – bobbing and gyrating. Faces were lit with Cheshire grins, and arms punched the air. A couple of new songs – “When I Was a Boy”, and “Ain’t Life a Drag” showed they could hold their own. But it was the high-octane oldies that really got the room moving. “All over the World”, and “Living Thing” had a typically vibrant feel. It was the closing four tracks, though – “Turn to Stone”, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”, and “Mr Blue Sky” – that really sent shivers up the spine. Unsurprisingly, they also brought the house down.
That just left the encore – “Roll Over Beethoven”, complete with an intro of Ludwig’s 5th courtesy of the string section. The irony was, of course, that Chuck Berry’s original was all about one form of music making way for the next. Lynne, on the other hand, had just proved the enduring power of nostalgia.
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