JEFF LYNNE’S ELO

VENUE WEMBLEY StA­dium, lon­don DATE 24/06/2017

Prog - - Intro - PAUL LESTER

Spoiler alert: they don’t play Bat­tle Of Marston Moor, nor do they do Ocean Breakup/King Of The Uni­verse or Man­hat­tan Rum­ble (49th Street Mas­sacre). But there’s still plenty tonight to sat­isfy the hard­est-core prog­ger. ELO merge com­mer­cial in­stincts with struc­tural com­plex­ity: their pop an­thems are adorned with de­tailed in­tri­cacy.

Ar­guably, ELO – billed as Jeff Lynne’s ELO, be­cause he’s one of only two orig­i­nal mem­bers, the other be­ing the some­what less well-known key­boardist Richard Tandy, who is un­well and can’t be here tonight – are the big­gest prog band in Bri­tain. Hear­ing Lynne’s hits back-to-back, be­ing rapturously re­ceived on this glo­ri­ous sum­mer evening, one is forced to con­clude that his is the na­tion’s most widely adored (prog pop) song­book since The Bea­tles, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of Queen.

Lynne’s ar­rival on­stage prompts a stand­ing ova­tion, but re­ally he takes a back seat to the mu­sic. The crowd are just happy that, with his curly perm, shades and beard, dressed in jeans and jacket, he still looks re­as­sur­ingly like Jeff

Lynne. Apart from the odd be­tween-song in­ter­jec­tion, he’s strangely char­ac­ter­less, his voice func­tional, but it doesn’t mat­ter be­cause his tunes are Tech­ni­color ex­trav­a­gan­zas.

And be­sides, his ar­ray of back­ing singers and mu­si­cians are more than up to the task of bring­ing those mini-sym­phonies to life.

They open with Standin’ In The Rain, fol­lowed by Evil Woman. A bum­bling Lynne is over­come by the re­ac­tion. “What a fan­tas­tic sight this is,” he de­clares, point­ing at the mul­ti­tudes.

“You should come on­stage and see!”

All Over The World is an up­beat earth an­them quite at odds with the planet’s dire geopo­lit­i­cal state, but who cares with a cho­rus that se­vere? Show­down is sta­dium melan­cho­lia (‘Save me, oh save me/It’s un­real, the suf­fer­ing’). Livin’ Thing en­cour­ages a mass sin­ga­long. Last Train To Lon­don – that ir­re­sistible Moog mo­tif! – makes you re­con­sider prog’s funk quo­tient, the lyric (‘I re­ally want tonight to last for­ever’) sud­denly a meta-com­ment on the gig it­self.

Dur­ing Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, thou­sands of cam­era phones cap­ture the vast mass of hu­man­ity, their lights twin­kling mag­i­cally as dark­ness falls. There’s a gen­er­ous re­cep­tion for 10538 Over­ture’s hard or­ches­tral rock, ap­peas­ing the Quo de­mo­graphic, and al­though this is a scaled-down ver­sion of ELO com­pared to their live hey­day, there is a gi­ant space­ship above the stage, and green lasers beam into the sky. The Move’s Do Ya is met with ex­cite­ment not puz­zle­ment, and fewer go to the bar dur­ing 2015’s When I Was A Boy than you’d imag­ine.

Mr Blue Sky is the cli­max, fol­lowed by an en­core of Roll Over Beethoven. That Lynne, aged 69, can fill, let alone slay, a sta­dium in 2017 is tes­ta­ment to the power of prog.

“LYNNE’S BACKTO-BACK HITS ARE RAPTUROUSLY RE­CEIVED.”

ELO’S JEFF LYNNE (LEFT) AND MIKE STEVENS WITH THE STRING SEC­TION.

OUT OF THIS WORLD: IT JUST WOULDN’T BE ELO WITH­OUT A UFO.

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