ELO @ Manchester Arena - Live Review...
Unusually for a support band the Arena is already fairly full when The Feeling hit the stage and dive straight into I Thought It Was Over to start off about 40 minutes of pop rock magic with a touch of prog. The band are currently on a renaissance with the release of their self titled fifth album which see’s a return to form for them. Unsurprisingly the set focuses on their stellar first album with songs like Fill My Little World, Never Be Lonely and Sewn getting a rapturous reception from the audience, the band responding like they own the stage. Only Wicked Heart features from the new album and is well received.
The final two songs see’s some of the audience get to their feet, dance and sing along to Join With Us and Love It When You Call, the latter song seeing the band bounce and bound all over the stage. I am sure that this show will certainly gain the band a lot of new fans and let people know there is still great pop rock being made… in the words of Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman it’s poptastic.
The wait for ELO seems to go on forever, obviously it is the anticipation of this show. It gives me time to have a good look around the audience, I am 52 and I am feeling young here! I wouldn’t quite say it is retiree’s outing but…
The wait is over and a video of travelling through space is on the big screen, looks suspiciously like one of the NASA Hubble film’s before the ELO spaceship comes into view; Jeff’Lynne’s ELO hit the stage with Tightrope quickly following it with Evil Woman. This is the start of a performance of quality songs from a band that features 16 people so the sound is big. Long time Lynne associate and keyboard player Richard Tandy is the only member of the old ELO and the rest of the band is made up of four guitarists, three keyboard players (inc Tandy), a three piece string section, drummer and backing singers and interestingly prog journeyman Lee Pomeroy on bass guitar.
A massive screen behind the band shows a selection of videos and graphics throughout the show in order to make up for the lack of movement onstage, you only realise Lynne’s alive when he is either singing or changing his guitar. The light show is hugely impressive too and works well with the songs although I am sure it pales in comparison to Muse’s who were here the previous two nights.
The aforementioned Mr Pomeroy is probably the most active member of the band, you could tell he really wanted to rock out especially towards the end of the set. So with the band relatively motionless the music is, well, it is perfect. Probably too perfect as they run through what is a greatest hits package. Showdown, All Over The World, Living Thing and Rockaria – they were all played just right.
Lynne’s ELO are also promoting a new album, Alone In The Universe, and the first song they play from it, When I Was A Boy, is just a blatant rip off of The Beatles A Day In The Life. Along with other two new songs they play, Ain’t It A Drag and When The Night Comes, they all seem a bit flat, the audience reaction is polite but hardly enthusiastic as this is not what they have come to hear. Lynne is quoted as saying he didn’t think there was any audience for his music before his Hyde Park show a few years back (he was bitten by a disastrous US tour in 2001 which only sold about three tickets) but this major arena tour just goes to show the longevity and popularity of ELO’s music even if most of the songs are over 35 years old.
The set ends with a run of six of their biggest hits: Wild West Hero, Telephone Line, Turn To Stone, Don’t Bring Me Down, Sweet Talkin’ Woman and the song which everyone sang along to, Mr Blue Sky. This is bringing back a lot of memories!
The single song encore of the Chuck Berry classic Roll Over Beethoven and at 90 minutes it is all over and it does seem a bit short yet is the sort of show that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. The best way to describe it is it is like being wrapped up in your favourite duvet on the sofa: all cosy, safe and warm.
Words: Anthony Firmin / Photos: via ELO