Gig preview: Jeff Lynne's ELO at First Direct Arena

WHEN Jeff Lynne announced that he was to tour as Jeff Lynne's ELO this year, tickets were like gold dust, this wasn't just the music event of 2016, this was the music event of the century so far.
Jeff LynneJeff Lynne
Jeff Lynne

Lynne founded The Electric Light Orchestra with fellow Brummies Roy Wood and Bev Bevan out of the ashes of 60s hit-makers The Move in 1972. Wood had been asking Lynne to join for years, but Lynne had been hoping for success with his own band The Idle Race.

Eventually, he caved in and joined The Move, on the condition that they developed Wood’s idea of the Electric Light Orchestra.

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ELO’s first album spawned a hit single, the Lynne composition 10538 Overture, then Wood left to form Wizzard.

Jeff took over the band and slowly built up the band.

Hits like Roll Over Beethoven, Ma Ma Ma Belle and Showdown kept them in the public eye and in 1974, they got a Gold Disc in America with the album Eldorado.

Lynne had hot upon the magic formula: a rock band comprising himself on guitars and vocals, Bev Bevan on drums, Richard Tandy on keyboards and Kelly Groucutt on bass and vocals, augmented by a three-piece string section of Mik Kaminski on violin and Hugh McDowell and Melvyn Gale on cellos.

The lush string sounds on the records were arranged by Louis Clark.

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The next few years saw ELO at the very top, albums like Face The Music, A New World Record, the double Out Of The Blue and chart-topping Discovery flowed from the pen of Lynne as he wrote all the music for the band.

There were hit singles aplenty: Livin’ Thing, Telephone Line, Sweet Talking Woman and his own anthem Mr Blue Sky kept the chart compilers busy.

On the live front, they were the pioneers of arena rock in the US, and had their famous ‘flying saucer’ as part of their Out Of The Blue tour.

Strangely, ELO only ever had one number one single, Xanadu with Olivia Newton-John.

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Lynne was never happy touring, as he said at the time: “Nothing gives me a bigger thrill than ripping off the packaging of a tape and recording.”

A few albums later, in 1986, Lynne decided to disband ELO and go onto pastures new.

He became a much in-demand writer and producer, working with Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and Dave Edmunds.

His producing work with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan led to the formation of The Traveling Wilburys and then Lynne achieved something he never dreamed of, he worked with The Beatles.

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He was chosen to produce The Beatles’ Free As a Bird and also worked with Paul McCartney.

Lynne resurrected ELO in 2001 for the album Zoom, then in 2012 reworked some ELO hits for the Mr Blue Sky album, which came out at the same time as Long Wave, his second solo album.

In fact, at the same time, a compilation of ELO hits was released and this led to Lynne having three albums in the Top 10 at the same time.

Around that time, he started dropping hints that he might tour again and in 2014 he appeared in front of 50,000 fans at Hyde Park, performing ELO hits as ‘Jeff Lynne’s ELO’, later released as a DVD.

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The ball was rolling and a new album. Alone In The Universe, was issued in November, with the hit single When I Was A Boy.

Then, Lynne announced a tour. A handful of dates became 10, then 12 and then 15 as demand for tickets overwhelmed the phone lines and front-row tickets were soon selling for over a thousand pounds.

With old friend Richard Tandy by his side, Lynne has gathered together some excellent musicians to accompany him, including his musical director Mike Stevens of the current line-up of 10CC.

The anticipation for the dates has been phenomenal and the dates will be an event to be remembered, the fact that Lynne has not toured the UK for 30 years has fuelled the longing to be there.

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All those classic hits, performed by the man who wrote them.

Mr Blue Sky... welcome back!

Jeff Lynne’s ELO will be playing the First Direct Arena, Leeds on Saturday April 9. For details visit