Gig Review: Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Manchester Arena

Jeff Lynne's ELO

Jeff Lynne’s ELO returns to the stage after 30 years for ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE tour

Following the success of his headline set at BBC Radio 2’s Festival In A Day, Jeff Lynne’s ELO finally returns to the stage for a twelve date UK tour, the first in over thirty years.

Originally formed by Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) first shot to fame in the 1970s, winning over music fans with their modern rock/pop songs with classical overtones. From 1972 to 1986, the band accumulated an impressive twenty Top 20 UK singles, selling over 50 million records worldwide during the group’s original 13-year period.

In 2012, original members Jeff Lynne (lead vocals/guitar) and Richard Tandy (keyboard/synthesiser/backing vocals) reunited for a TV documentary and to play the Children in Need Rocks concert. Their headline set at BBC Radio 2’s Festival In A Day two years later was such a success that the band decided to record a new album and test the water with a new tour.

ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE may be the first tour Jeff Lynne’s ELO has performed in over thirty years but the songs and the show feels as fresh as ever. In a surprise move, the band open with one of their lesser known hits Tightrope rather than a crowd-pleaser but it isn’t long before the mega hits start with the crowd quickly up on their feet for Evil Woman, Showdown and All Over the World.

ELO are renowned for putting on a great show and the ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE tour is no exception. The entire 90 minute set is an exhibition with Lynne and his band looking almost mystical on stage as brightly coloured beams light up the set and a giant video screen displays visions of space and ELO’s famous spaceship.

Lynne and Tandy are joined on stage by an impressive line-up of musicians led by musical director Mike Stevens, including a full rhythm and string section which shine on signature tunes like Secret Messages and the anthemic Telephone Line.

Highlights include the disco-esque Shine A Little Love and the fast paced Turn to Stone with its fantastic three-part harmonies which are met by a rapturous reception from the audience. The foot stomping Don’t Bring Me Down and soaring Wild West Hero also impress with the 21,000 strong crowd singing their hearts out.

Fans of ELO will know that Lynne is a shy and unassuming frontman, with the singer/songwriter choosing to stay silent in between numbers resulting in extended gaps which interrupt the flow of the show. That said, few can deny Lynne’s status as a rock legend as he belts hits such as Livin’ Thing, Sweet Talkin’ Woman and Rockaria! with his wonderfully homely voice, as well as tracks from the new album including When I Was A Boy and Ain’t It a Drag.

The set closes with one of the greatest British pop songs ever, the rousing Mr Blue Sky, with the band returning for a guitar solo-filled encore of Roll Over Beethoven.

It may have taken over 30 years for Jeff Lynne’s ELO to return to the stage but if this performance is anything to go back, it was well worth the wait.

4 out of 5 stars

Jeff Lynne’s ELO performed at Manchester Arena on 10 April 2016