Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Live Review – Sheffield Arena
By Richard Jones, June 2017
The Sunday afternoon ‘legends slot’ on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury is one of the highlights of the festival each June. Over the years, the likes of Tony Bennett, Dame Shirley Bassey, Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton and Lionel Richie have all stole the show at Worthy Farm, with Bee Gee Barry Gibb taking his turn this year.
Cast your mind back 12 months, and it was another of pock/pop music’s living legends, Jeff Lynne, along with his band, the Electric Light Orchestra, who lifted the crowd’s spirits in the Somerset rain.
During ELO’s original period of active recording and touring from 1970-86, the British pop-rock group sold over 50 million records worldwide, had 26 UK Top 40 singles, and were massive on both sides of the Atlantic.
The band were particularly popular in my childhood home in Castleford, West Yorkshire. Growing up, my dad would play ELO LPs, along with Fleetwood Mac’s, seemingly on a loop.
The Electric Light Orchestra eventually disbanded in 1986, before getting back together for a short stint in 2001.
“Feast for the eyes”
Then, after a number of legal wrangles, the band, under a new name – Jeff Lynne’s ELO – reformed in 2014 to perform at Radio 2’s ‘Festival in a Day’ in Hyde Park, London.
A year later, Lynne announced that a new ELO album was in the pipeline, and Alone In The Universe became their first record of new material in nearly 15 years.
Lynne and ELO were unfairly criticised during the post-punk era, but ever since their triumphant Hyde Park comeback and the vintage performance at Glasto, the public’s admiration for Lynne’s songwriting has been on the rise again.
The shaggy-haired, sunglasses-wearing Brummie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of Electric Light Orchestra) in April, and to celebrate the feat they are embarking on a short UK tour (supported by Keane frontman Tom Chaplin).
I was lucky enough to have a ticket for the gig at Sheffield Arena, where Lynne, and and his enormously talented backing band served up hit after hit from ELO’s remarkable back catalogue, including ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, ‘Can’t Get It Out Of My Head’, ‘Strange Magic’, ‘Do Ya’, ‘Sweet Talkin’ Woman’, ‘Turn To Stone’, ‘Telephone Line’, ‘Evil Woman’ and ‘Livin’ Thing’.
The show was also a feast for the eyes – images were projected onto massive screens behind the Orchestra, who took it in turns duetting with centre of attention Lynne, whether it be with guitar, keyboard, drums, cello, violin or vocals.
Love them or loathe them, you can’t deny that ELO’s status as one of rock music’s best-ever bands is secured; and Alone In The Universe appears to be a lot more than a wrinkly rocker’s last hurrah.
“One of the great rock and rollers of all time”
Lynne may be pushing 70, but on Midsummer’s Night in South Yorkshire, he and his band played through the heat for over two hours, and there’s nothing to say we shouldn’t expect more new material from them in the next few years.
During interview, he often talks about working with his heroes George Harrison and Roy Orbison with whom he co-founded the supergroup Traveling Wilburys, and you get the feeling he’s just a really nice guy and a music fan at heart.
In fact, he is so unassuming you could easily forget that he is one of the great rock and rollers of all time. A living legend indeed.
To me, it will always be a shame that ‘Mr Blue Sky’ went off the radar and had to ‘hide away for so long (so long)’ – the best part of 30 years.
But just before this sold-out gig in Sheffield, the sun was shinin’ in the sky, there wasn’t a cloud in sight.
And as one of Lynne and the band’s ecstatic fans, I can safely say it was the day we’d waited for.