REVIEW: ELO at the Wells Fargo Center

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WRITTEN BY: Jessica Gambino

There’s no better way to ease in the new school year than to go and immerse yourself in some 70’s nostalgia. Jeff Lynne, founding member and leader of the rock band Electric Light Orchestra, hit the road in 2018 touring as “Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra.”

 This is a pretty huge deal, considering it’s his first North American tour in over thirty years (the last time being 1981). It’s fair to say that this show has been long awaited by many.

Everyone in the audience seemed to be filled with a nervous excitement, wondering if Jeff Lynne would still be able to match the standard he had set back in the day. The lights went down, and the screens flashed the ELO spaceship symbol. Despite the loud roar of the audience, Lynne and his band humbly walked out and immediately started jamming. He kicked it off with a exciting rendition of “Standin’ in the Rain,” while the colorful light show illuminated the venue, staying true to ELO’s classic execution of the live shows (I mean, it is Electric LIGHT Orchestra, after all). Next, he rolled into one of ELO’s classics, “Evil Woman.” It only took about two full songs until I was sitting there completely awestruck by Lynne and how incredible he still sounded after all these years. Not only did he hit every high note, but he also didn’t miss a single beat. A lot of the times when you go to see these older musicians, you have to hold them to a slightly lower standard, as they are typically not as tight as they were in their prime. It makes sense – decades of performing and touring can surely exhaust a person. Yet, it didn’t seem to be that way with Jeff Lynne. Despite his curly fro appearing to have lost some of its spunk, everything appeared to be exactly the same as what I imagine it would have been like to see him in the 70s.

The next, song “All Over the World” provided an upbeat, disco twist that kept the energy up. The drums sounded great on this one although they were just a little bit too loud, as the bass sounded a bit drowned out. Nevertheless, this was an exciting song to see performed live, and it made me feel like I had been transported to a 1970’s nightclub. After watching Lynne absolutely kill the solo in “Showdown”, the audience’s energy spiked up once again upon hearing that main riff of “Do Ya.” Everyone in the entire venue was grooving along to the music… except for Jeff Lynne. Despite the bouncy, energetic vibe of most of his songs, Lynne did not move around much on stage. He stood in the same spot throughout the entire performance – with his shades on throughout the entire duration of the show, of course.

After the playful energy of “Do Ya,” Lynne slowed things down for the introspective ballad, “When I Was a Boy.” There was something especially powerful about seeing this one live. Here was an old, wise, Jeff Lynne right in front of you sharing his thoughts that seem to be more relatable the older you get – how simple everything seemed to be when we were young.

The next song, “Livin’ Thing,” was perhaps one of my favorite songs of the night. Seeing this song live gave me a chance to see just how the orchestra interacts with the rest of the band, and how full the song is because of it. The main violinist took center stage right next to Lynne and was in the spotlight for a lot of the song. Seeing the violinist play that powerful intro, and then transitioning into the upbeat plucking made me appreciate the song so much more than I had before. Another song that I gained a deeper appreciation for was “Handle With Care.” This is a song from Lynne’s supergroup, The Traveling Wilbury’s, which consisted of Lynne, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. A montage containing old footage of the group played in the background while he performed, which added a wholesome, nostalgic feeling to the performance.

Another epic performance was during the song, “10538 Overture.” Lynne whipped out his beautiful Les Paul that had a tone so incredible that it left me feeling hypnotized, completely unable to focus on any other aspects of the song. Lynne extended the instrumental interlude part of the song and was joined by his three other guitarists, switching off solos and different rhythms, which was exciting to watch.

The most memorable moment of the performance was the encore. It started out with all lights on the orchestra while they went into an intense rendition of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. It was very intriguing to someone who rarely listens to classical music. It opened me up to just how beautiful those sounds really are. Suddenly, the orchestra cut off and Lynne came back out with a smooth transition right into Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” It was the perfect way to end the show.

Overall, Jeff Lynne certainly knew how to please the crowd. He proved that he’s still got it, even though he’s way passed his prime. The set list was great (it would have been perfect if he had played “Strange Magic”), with just the right amount of slow ballads, hype rock, and popular hits that would please any type of fan. It was a great experience being able to see an absolute legend; I just hope that he doesn’t wait thirty years to come back again!

Set List:

  1. Standin’ in the Rain
  2. Evil Woman
  3. All Over the World
  4. Showdown
  5. Do Ya
  6. When I Was a Boy
  7. Livin’ Thing
  8. Handle With Care
  9. Rockaria!
  10. Can’t Get It Out of My Head
  11. 10538 Overture
  12. Shine a Little Love
  13. Wild West Hero
  14. Sweet Talkin’ Woman
  15. Telephone Line
  16. Don’t Bring Me Down
  17. Turn to Stone
  18. Mr. Blue Sky

Encore:

  1. Roll Over Beethoven