When you think of bands who have been influenced by The Beatles, who comes to mind? If the Electric Light Orchestra isn’t at the top of your list, think a little more.
ELO was formed in 1970 by Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood and Bev Bevan. Their idea was to blend rock and classical music. Lots of strings, lots of synthesizers. It was a format that worked to create a lot of hits.
By the mid-70’s, Wood left the band and Lynne became the main creative force. He was responsible for the writing, and more importantly to his career, the producing and recording of the ELO records.
Lynne was more comfortable in the studio than playing live. He became a go to producer for many music superstars including George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty……his band mates in the Traveling Wilburys. Harrison also brought him in to work on some recordings with the other living Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
In 2000, Lynne decided to reform ELO and bought out the naming rights from Bev Bevan. There were some minor projects until a few years ago when the band was renamed as Jeff Lynne’s ELO and they started playing occasional live shows, mostly in Europe.
That brings us to this year and their current tour of ten U.S. cities. It’s the first extensive tour of America since 1981. On Wednesday night, stop number six was at Chicago suburban Rosemont’s Allstate Arena.
This version of ELO has a large group of musicians. Two cellists and a violinist make up the string section. A couple of guitarists, two keyboardists, two singers, a bassist and a drummer make up the band…or orchestra. They have a very tight sound, as if they’ve been playing concerts for many years.
The setlist for the tour is the same at all the shows. It starts with “Standing in the Rain” and is quickly followed by classic ELO hits “Evil Woman” and “All Over The World.” From the opening notes, you can hear Lynne’s influences. The string section handles the classical parts while you can almost feel his Beatles obsession coming out of his pores.
The concert is nineteen songs that you know, love and can sing along…a lot of that going on! Highlights included “Do Ya”, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, “Mr. Blue Sky” and as Lynne said, “his other band”, The Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle With Care.”
The finale was ELO’s version of the Chuck Berry classic “Roll Over Beethoven.” It brings you back to when it all started for ELO. Their version is the perfect mixture of their classical and rock formula.
It was a night of great hits. I wasn’t sure we would ever get a chance to see Jeff Lynne play live music again but hopefully this small tour leads to something bigger in the future. Until then, this will more than do.
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