Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Hollywood Bowl, 10 September 2016

It is hard to find an artist who has been dormant from the stage for so long and has come back with enough fan support to sell out three nights at the Hollywood Bowl.

Jeff Lynne has hardly been hibernating since I first saw Electric Light Orchestra in concert in the mid 1970s (40 years ago almost to the day, in fact). By the ’80s Lynne let the band drift while he undertook some high profile production duties in the ensuing decades. Benefiting from Lynne’s studio wizardry were the likes of George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty…hello Traveling Wilburys.

A surprisingly strong return to form was delivered with last year’s album Alone in the Universe, which nicely set up Lynne’s current tour.

The middle night of his stand at the venerable Bowl featured the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra opening with a thirty minute précis refracting influences like Elgar and Vaughn Williams.

But the audience was there to see and hear Lynne’s melding of lush orchestrations with rock stylings.

The eponymous ear worm of “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” was the evening’s first highlight. Making full use of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and his band’s string section, Lynne’s hypnotic refrain was intoxicating. The fog machines and lasers were in full effect.

The concert setting had me focusing on Lynne’s lyrics, which are shockingly simple. Oddly, I was put in mind of another band from the same era, from the opposite end of the musical spectrum, as both bands took infectious melodies and shallow lyrics to the top of the charts: America. And to stretch the tenuous connection further, George Martin lent his production hand to America on a few albums, as did Lynne for the Beatles on “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love.”

In any event, Lynne was undoubtedly pleased at the strong reception to his broad set list. With an army of cello players, a bevy of violinists and a phalanx of keyboard players, Lynne built a wall of sound.

Lynne was never fully comfortable onstage, but he stood center stage with his Gibson guitar and aplomb. Notably, there are only five shows (in two venues) listed on his site.

Mathew Imaging

Mathew Imaging

Mathew Imaging

(Photo credit: Mathew Imaging)

“Turn to Stone,” “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” bulked up the second half of the set in satisfying fashion. For the latter song, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra set down their instruments and enjoyed the crowd’s boisterous reception.

Also well-received was “10583 Overture” which Lynne mentioned was the first song the band ever recorded. I had forgotten how frequently Lynne dropped in a vocorder to his songs, but his longtime piano player Richard Tandy reminded us.

A custom light show for the Bowl effectively used the shell as a visual palate, incorporating ELO’s iconography. As one of the first bands to legally use lasers on stage, ELO continues to push the edge of the envelope with musical eye candy.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-12-02-47-pm

(Photo credit: Mathew Imaging)

But the encore was the perfect blend of the evening’s elements. The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra played the first bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in full orchestral mode, the stage lights dimmed, then Lynne’s guitar played the scorching intro to “Roll Over Beethoven” and the synchronized fireworks exploded above the roaring crowd. It is doubtful Chuck Berry envisioned such a performance when he penned the song all those years ago, but it has certainly become a classic. Indeed, the tune ideally captured Lynne’s dual love of orchestration and rock stylings.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

Advertisement

  • uncklebud

    I went to the Out of the Blue tour in 79/80 with heart as the opening act.
    Greta show except they recorded some of the vocals and got sued out of business, including the promoter Brass ring productions. Still a great show with the space ship whose cost also helped doom the tour.

    • BRAD AUERBACH

      I sat there thinking about another artist who toured with a spaceship: George Clinton / Funkadelic. His Mothership will be inducted into a new museum at the Smithsonian in a few weeks, with President Obama.

  • GearHeadFred

    I was also at the show Saturday night, wearing my “Time Tour 1981” T-shirt from that ELO show 35 years ago. In the early years, the attempts to re-create the sound live with a handful of musicians was doomed to failure.. To see those magical songs performed by Jeff, backed by an exceptional band (English studio musicians, I assume?) AND a full orchestra was pure bliss. I am still buzzing from it 48 hours later!

    • BRAD AUERBACH

      Yes, the use of recordings onstage has been fraught with peril. And even when live albums are further enhanced in the studio. I think the answer is a simple disclosure solves the issue.

    • Linda

      Me too! Just SPECTACULAR!

    • Kevin Manley

      The core backing band is in effect the UK house band directed by Mike Stevens. They form the core of many national rock/pop events including the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012 where they supported Elton John, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder to name but four. More on Mike here: http://www.soundonsound.com/people/mike-stevens.

  • BRAD AUERBACH

    I sat there thinking about another artist who toured with a spaceship: George Clinton / Funkadelic. His Mothership will be inducted into a new museum at the Smithsonian in a few weeks, with President Obama.

  • Linda

    I have been to probably 2,000 (or perhaps more) concerts in my 62 years, and this was, WITHOUT A DOUBT, one of the BEST 5 shows I’ve ever seen! I could go back and do it again every night for the next month and not get tired of it. Simply breathtaking!