A Jeff Lynne live performance is rarer than a UFO sighting at Area 51, but the ELO spaceship landed for three nights in a row at the famous Hollywood Bowl this weekend. And their special brand of space-disco has never sounded better, especially with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra lending their full symphonic backup.
The Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins acted as the opening band, playing classical selections that influenced Jeff Lynne sonically. This included a lesser-known movement from Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.” After a short three song set, there was a brief pause while the stage was set for the imminent arrival of the ELO Mothership.
ELO took the stage to their largely instrumental track “Tightrope,” the first track from their 1976 album A NEW WORLD RECORD. This set the mood, as the song builds epically, bolstered by the live accompaniment of the orchestra. Front projection turned the stage itself into a UFO, with the ELO logo crowning the top of the Bowl. They quickly followed this with the classic cut “Evil Woman” from 1975’s Face the Music. This greatest hits perennial got the crowd on their feet and featured a piano solo by original member Richard Tandy, while the projectors lit the Bowl on fire. Flames licked the stage while Jeff Lynne sang the chorus accompanied by the sold-out 17,500 capacity audience.
Lynne thanked the conductor before launching into another crowd favorite, “Showdown” from the 1973 releaseOn the Third Day, towers of flash bars punctuating the gritty downbeats of the roadhouse bass line. “All Over the World” switched pace, bathing the stage in purple, red and blue, giving homage to its disco roots on the soundtrack to the 1980 cult-classic film “Xanadu.”
Next ELO launched into one of my favorites from the new album Alone in the Universe, “Love and Rain.” This was the only night out of the three that they played the bluesy track, and the projection made it rain in the Bowl, creating a slightly distorted window into the universe. The band returned to crowd-pleasers with “Living Thing,” made popular by the film “Boogie Nights.” They played the first single off the new album “When I was a Boy” about Jeff Lynne dreaming of music stardom as a child in Birmingham, England while listening to the radio. They followed this up with the opera/50’s rock juxtaposition of “Rockaria!” and went directly into their very first single, the cello epic “10538 Overture” recently made popular by the film “American Hustle.”
They launched into greatest hit mode again with gusts of smoke and rainbow lasers on “Can’t Get it Out of My Head” and green lasers and glitter explosions on “Shine a Light on My Life” before diving into a deep cut with “Wild West Hero.” The strings soared on “Telephone Line” and asteroids took the screens on “Turn to Stone.” The end was signaled with the triumvirate of “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” and the song that has become their signature track “Mr. Blue Sky.” White lasers shot through clouds of smoke as everyone rose to their feet to dance to the catchy pop platitudes from their 1977 double album Out of the Blue.
The band left the stage before returning for an encore of the Chuck Berry classic “Roll Over Beethoven” punctuated by fireworks timed to the downbeats. This turned the event into a truly stellar display and left the audience wowing at the spectacle and awing at the immensity of Jeff Lynne’s ELO’s showmanship, marveling at how truly special it was to see them on this tour, since they only chose New York and Los Angeles to play.
ELO finishes off their American tour September 16th and 18th at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
“All Over the World”
“Love and Rain”
“When I Was a Boy”
“Can’t Get It Out of My Head”
“Shine a Little Love”
“Wild West Hero”
“Turn to Stone”
“Sweet Talkin’ Woman”
“Don’t Bring Me Down”
“Mr. Blue Sky”
“Roll Over Beethoven”