If you’d told people three years ago that Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra would return to the stage, you’d probably be scoffed at, and rightly so. Sometimes, though, Strange Magic happens (ha!), and ELO is touring throughout 2016. Sounds from the Dark Side attended the gig in Amsterdam.
The days where Electric Light Orchestra was the perpetual odd man out – too poppy for rockers, too heavy for pop afficionados – seems to be over. Ever since the triumphant return to the stage at Hyde Park in 2014, Jeff Lynne’s band seems to be revered like never before. A string of nigh-on sold out concerts in 2016 would seem to prove that. Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome is rather packed as well.
Before ELO takes the stage, however, it’s up to The Feeling to warm the crowd up a bit. And to be fair, they do a rather admirable job on it. The catchy soft rock works like a charm, and the few better known hits (Fill My Little World first and foremost) manage to garner an enthusiastic round of applause. The band seems to enjoy themselves on the stage, and as a warm-up for ELO, you can’t get a much more appropriate band, as the slick pop rock songs fit right in with what the main act has on offer.
In the end, though, there’s only one thing all these people have come for, and that is Jeff Lynne’s ELO. They want hits, and Lynne, backed by Richard Tandy and a host of session musicians, delivers in spades. Starting off with Tightrope, Lynne (does that man ever age? He looks exactly like he did 40 years ago) takes centre stage, dwarfed only by his own lush arrangements and a fantastic light show, reminiscent of latter-day Pink Floyd stage productions. The big, round video screen and the lighting are nothing short of spectacular. Also spectacular is the sound. Seated inconspicuously somewhere in the far back as well as to the side, everything still sounds crystal clear and well-balanced. The last time I experienced such a sonically pleasing concert was Roger Waters’ The Wall gigs, with their impressive quadraphonic sound system.
As good as everything sounds tonight – and you might expect no less from a renowned producer like Lynne – so good is the evening’s setlist. It’s like someone put a quarter into that rubber-band-jukebox spaceship so that it can pump out a hour and a half’s worth of ELO hits. From Tightrope onwards, it’s one incredibly smooth ride through the band’s history (With the exception of Time, Balance of Power and Zoom, the last three albums before Lynne returned last year with Alone in the Universe), with the band plummeting the audience with a never ending barrage of classic hits. Backed by a very capable band and string ensemble, Lynne pumps out song after song with a perfect sonic clarity that borders on being eerie.
That clarity might also be the one gripe you could have with a concert like this; at times things sound too perfect – again, reminiscent of the latter-day Pink Floyd shows. Not a note is missed, and the songs, from 10538 Overture from their first album, to When I Was a Boy from the last, is reproduced perfectly. And as the band jumps from classics like Living Thing to Telephone Line to Don’t Bring Me Down, the increasingly jubilant crowd can feast their eyes on a terrific show. Front and center is the huge, round video screen showing images pertaining to the songs being played (a seductively looking women’s eye on Evil Woman, a trip around the globe on All Over the World, I’m sure you get the gist). Surrounding that screen is an extensive, oval lighting rig from which spots swoop up and down. It’s a spectacular sight, and it completely dwarves Lynne (still looking like the same hairy Muppet he always was, aviator sunglasses and all) and his band.
When the show concludes with the inevitable Mr. Blue Sky and the encore Roll Over Beethoven, there isn’t a person in the crowd who is still seated. Lynne’s return to the stage in 2014 at Hyde Park was a glorious one, but this tour is just as much a succes. Who’d have thought after all these years that we’d still be roused by ELO’s mix of pop, rock, strings and a heavy dose of vocoder, courtesy of mr. Richard Tandy. Great show, great performance, and bloody well recommended if they happen to come to a venue in your neighbourhood.
Seen on: May 1st
Seen where: Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam
- Evil Woman
- All Over the World
- When I Was a Boy
- Livin’ Thing
- Strange Magic
- 10538 Overture
- Secret Messages
- Shine a Little Love
- Wild West Hero
- Telephone Line
- Turn to Stone
- Don’t Bring Me Down
- Sweet Talkin’ Woman
- Mr. Blue Sky
- Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry cover)
Review by Ralph Plug