Jeff Lynne’s ELO ended the show where the former Electric Light Orchestra’s career began to take off, playing a rambunctious version of “Roll Over Beethoven” – replete with its quotations of the composer’s famous 5th symphony found on ELO 2 – and wrapping a night full of highlights with one of the brightest of all.
The 21st song – and the only encore – of the evening followed the homestretch of crowd-pleasers that began with the sweeping, classically infused “Wild West Hero;” moved on to perfectly sculpted radio mainstays “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” and “Telephone Line;” and capped the main set with the one-two-three punch of “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “Turn to Stone” and “Mr. Blue Sky,” which found Lynne’s Beatlesque bonafides on full display as he and his rechristened large band faithfully executed the Out of the Blue triad while adding just enough live-in-concert flourishes to keep them interesting.
Backed by two cellists, a violinist, three guitarists, three keyboard players, two singers and a rhythm section – 12 players in all – Lynne stuck mostly to lead vocals and rhythm guitar, although he did take a couple of solos, notably on “Showdown” and “Beethoven” and ceded a few lines of “Do Ya” to his male backing vocalist, as his own 71-year-old vocal cords no longer have the range they once did.
Lynne never strayed far from his center-stage mic. But when he did take a few steps to have a drink of water or grab a fresh axe from a roadie, he seemed to have a difficult time walking. He was in fine spirits, however, and looked virtually the same as always with dark ‘fro and beard framing his ubiquitous dark shades.
Opener Dhani Harrison joined the group to sing father George’s part on the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care.” His eerily similar vocals made this number come off much better than when Lynne sung it himself on the band’s 2017 Wembley or Bust live LP. Another of many highlights.
The 100-minute, July 30, show in a packed-full Nationwide Arena featured plenty of eye candy to go with the aural delights.
Five vertical screens separated by thin light banks that shot lasers in to the crowd and shone multi-colored spots on the band showed images of the Wilburys – Lynne, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison – during Dhani Harrison’s cameo. The ever-changing images also illustrated other songs, with the moon shimmering on water during “Can’t Get it Out of My Head,” a spinning 45-rpm single for “Rockaria!” and bedroom scenes as Lynne sung about rock-star dreams on “When I Was a Boy,” the only track to appear from 2015’s Alone in the Universe, the lone studio LP credited to Jeff Lynne’s ELO.
There were a couple of clunkers in
the form of the Discovery-era dance tracks “Last Train to London” and
“Shine a Little Love,” which, while well-performed, are just not good tunes. But
the fans paid to hear the hits and these were hits so, fans got what they paid
for. And besides, Lynne threw the hard-core partisans a bone by opening with
“Standin’ in the Rain” before “Evil Woman” signaled the beginning of the hit