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Jeff Lynne's ELO - Wembley Stadium, London (UK) - 24 June 2017

JEFF LYNNE'S ELO brought out Mr. Blue Sky to play a Showdown of Greatest Hits to a packed Wembley Stadium, June 24th 2017

After years of radio silence, it's still a rare joy to see Jeff Lynne play a concert of his universally adored ELO songs. A full to capacity Wembley Stadium found the band playing under a futuristic shaped canopy − which itself sits beneath a huge lighting rig designed to look like a glowing spaceship. Almost totally hidden behind his dark shades, and iconic perfectly coiffed mop of curly hair, Lynne appeared out of flashing stage lights strumming the chords to symphonic rocker 'Standing In The Rain'. With his vocal drenched in echo, this epic slab from the 'Out Of The Blue' album kicked off this career-spanning hit machine set in style.

The three hits that followed: 'Evil Woman', 'All Over The World' and 'Showdown', flew by as sweetly as the summer breeze that was blowing through the stadium. They were one of many transcendental moments - where time seemed to stand still - as he played a wonderwall of solid gold hit songs.

Lynne shares members of his backing band with Take That, but this is where the comparison ends. Each band member showcased their true musical abilities as Lynne opened up his treasure chest of glittering hits. A virtuoso violin solo, played with beautiful precision by Rosie Langley, brought the string driven rock smash 'Livin' Thing' to life. The power pop chopping guitar chords - played by Mike 'Milton' McDonald - on 'Do Ya', pumped up the crowd to a feral frenzy. From this point, proceedings took a brief dip as recent single 'When I Was A Boy' and the Travelling Wilbury's 'Handle With Care' plodded along and slowed the pace of the show. Also, it was noticeable that some of the audience cannily chose to take a toilet break during these songs.

Soon enough, the scintillating run of top tunes was brought back on track with 'Last Train to London'. The audience needed no encouragement to dance as the band belted out the song's pumping disco flavour. "Here's one you won't be expecting," announced Lynne prior to playing the fantasy oddity 'Xanadu', much to the surprise of his dedicated fans. Most forget that Lynne wrote this Olivia Newton John song for the film soundtrack of the same name.

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The operatic Rock 'n' Roll mash up of 'Rockaria', with Melanie Lewis-McDonald excelling on vocals, preceded the sublime majesty of the John Lennon influenced 'Can't Get It Out Of My Head'. This set up the Sgt. Pepper infused '10538 Overture', also being the earliest recorded ELO song to be played in the set. Originally sung by both Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne - Wood left to form Wizzard whilst Lynne became a studio magician - the band stayed true to the original with its tour de force guitar riff. The ELO cellists also came to the fore as their bows frayed playing the deep rumbling swoop of psychedelic sound.

The vocoder intro to 'Sweet Talkin' Woman' − normally voiced by his long-standing musical partner, keyboardist Richard Tandy who was too unwell to play − found Lynne in fine singing voice, as he was all evening. And the purring swoon of 'Telephone Line' provided further proof of this as he hit the high notes with ease.

Jeff Lynne's droll, Birmingham-via-LA sense of humour was rarely heard in-between songs. Instead, it remained for guitarist Mike Stevens − also Take That's Musical Director − to introduce the band, allowing these self-penned songs to do Lynne's talking for him.

An avalanche of Rock sound on 'Turn To Stone' and 'Don't Bring Me Down' got everyone out of their seats, ignoring the over officious stewards pleas to remain seated, before the ultimate final act of this expertly staged show. With a helicopter filming the show from above, and cameras placed strategically around the stadium, the Beatle-style piano stampede and throbbing bass to "the sun is coming out today" lyric of 'Mr Blue Sky' beamed around the stadium. Its lush orchestration and operatic layers of vocals took on an epic dimension as the music thundered from the superb sound system.

With the spaceship lighting rig emitting smoke, and green laser lights shooting around the stadium, this sun-drenched concert of wall to wall hits ended with Lynne raising his thumbs - McCartney style - to a raucous standing ovation.

Paul Davies


Jeff Lynnes ELO - Live

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