Sometimes you leave a show with a review almost written in your mind already. Sometimes you can’t think of a word to say. And sometimes you just leave shaking your head gently and thinking, ‘Did I really just see that and how am I going to describe it to people who weren’t that lucky?’
The visit of Jeff Lynne’s ELO to the KCOM Stadium in Hull on Saturday, July 1st, was one of the latter kind, not just great music but a light show that would have been worth going to see in its own right, plus excellent support from The Shires and Tom Chaplin (QRO photos), formerly of Keane.
The good people of Hull turned out in force to welcome a man who has become synonymous with a sound, achieving a celebrity not unlike that of Brian Wilson, as the guiding light and chief creative force behind one of those bands who had maybe slipped our minds for a while, but for whom the zeitgeist has returned so that they’re probably bigger now than they ever were in their heyday.
Nostalgia? We’ll leave that for another night. This was simply a joyful celebration of everything that’s fine about great pop music. Yes, the hits kept coming. Yes, mums and dads, and some of their mums and dads too, were up and dancing away (in many cases pretty well), but there were plenty of kids and grandkids present and many times the biggest cheers were for lesser known songs from the Electric Light Orchestra canon, such as “Rockaria” or “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”.
“When I Was a Boy” from 2015’s Alone In The Universe was well received, as were The Travelling Wilbury’s “Handle With Care” and “Xanadu”, which most of us remember as an Olivia Newton John song (although ELO wrote and played the soundtrack, and Lynne provided parenthetic vocals on the original).
Technically it was a masterpiece. How do they get the music to sound almost exactly like the original album cuts in a football ground? Heaven knows, but they do.
As for the staging, well what can you say? One of the widest stages I’ve ever seen, so much so that they set it along one side of the stadium and not a the goal ends, equipped with huge davits full of lights, screens that towered into the night sky, and surmounting it all the red, yellow and blue disc of the ELO spaceship which emitted lights and clouds of steam as appropriate during the course of the evening.
Of course the hits are what people have come to see, and why not, and there are plenty of them from “Evil Woman”, near the beginning of the show, to closer “Mr Blue Skies”, for which we all stood singing, ‘The sun is shining in the sky’ into the blackness, and while it’s true that there isn’t a cloud in sight that’s because it’s too dark.
By the end of the show Lynne and the band have done just about enough to remind us what a unique sound they have/had and so they finish with a neat and dirty version of “Roll Over Beethoven”. It’s like saying, “Look I fooled you all. It’s just rock and roll really.” And it may well be, but it’s great rock and roll.