Gig review: Jeff Lynne’s ELO at Wembley Stadium

Jeff Lynne's ELO at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Cartsen Windhorst
Jeff Lynne's ELO at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Cartsen Windhorst
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Hull’s KCOM Stadium is in for a memorable night when Jeff Lynne’s ELO take to the stage on July 1, if the evidence of last Saturday’s spectacular show at Wembley Stadium is anything to go by.

A giant spaceship, pyrotechnics, lasers and big screen visuals all added to the experience of a concert setlist strong on melody and close attention to musical detail.

Lynne, now 69 but looking essentially unchanged since ELO’s 70s heyday with his curly hair, beard and aviator sunglasses, led his 12-piece band through a gentle opening with Standin’ in the Rain before upping the ante with the clavinet-powered Evil Woman.

From thereon in it was a full two hours of hits plucked from an extensive catalogue that included nods to Lynne’s earliest work with Roy Wood – the propulsive Do Ya (originally written for The Move) and 10538 Overture (from the 1971 album The Electric Light Orchestra) – a well received Handle With Care, from the singer and guitarist’s time with the Traveling Wilburys, the 80s supergroup that gathered the talents of Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Tom Petty, and “perhaps one you might not expect”, Xanadu, a UK chart-topper first recorded by Olivia Newton-John.

Violinist Rosie Langley and cellists Amy Langley and Jess Cox came into their own in the string-laden Livin’ Thing while backing vocalist Melanie Lewis-McDonald demonstrated her impressive soprano range during Rockaria!

If When I Was a Boy, from the most recent ELO album Alone in the Universe, showed Lynne’s enduring fascination with Beatles-like hooks remains intact to this day, Last Train To London also highlighted his late 70s appetite for the basslines and rhythms of disco.

Jeff Lynne's ELO at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Cartsen Windhorst

Jeff Lynne's ELO at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Cartsen Windhorst

After an introduction to the band by musical director Mike Stevens, long-time associate of Take That, the stadium became illuminated by mobile phone lights during the ballad Can’t Get It Out of My Head.

The standout moment visually came during Twilight, with lasers dancing on the stadium roof while footage of spaceships floating through a futuristic cityscape played on giant video screens high above the band and keyboard player Marcus Bryne crooned into a vocoder.

Ma-Ma-Ma Belle revealed Lynne’s rockier side, its guitar licks seemingly inspired by Keith Richards and Marc Bolan, before we were back in crowd-pleasing disco territory with Shine a Light Love.

Wild West Hero was inevitably accompanied by images of vast open American landscapes before the scintillating sequence of Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Telephone Line, Turn To Stone and Don’t Bring me Down provided a potent reminder of what a master craftsman Lynne is when it comes to creating memorable hooks and layered harmonies.

Jeff Lynne's ELO at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Cartsen Windhorst

Jeff Lynne's ELO at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Cartsen Windhorst

Fittingly the night culminated with a mass singalong to Mr Blue Sky, a superior pop/classical crossover that could brighten any day.

If the encore of Roll Over Beethoven allowed Lynne and lead guitarist Milton McDonald to indulge their inner Chuck Berry then they’d undoubtedly earned it.

Hull City of Culture has a lot to look forward to.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO play at the KCOM Stadium, Hull on Saturday July 1, with support from Tom Chaplin and The Shires. https://www.hull2017.co.uk/whatson/events/jeff-lynnes-elo/

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