Jeff Lynne’s ELO represent the missing link between The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and the closing 20 minutes of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This was clear from the beginning of the group’s 3Arena show, rescheduled after the 68-year-old band leader came down with a sore throat a week earlier. Swirling stars glimmered on video screens as power chords chimed into the infinite. You half expected a flying saucer to hover into view and disgorge the musicians.
It was a suitably seismic introduction to an evening of music that ventured where The Beatles never dared. Through the 1970s, Birmingham-born Lynne self-consciously picked up the mantle of McCartney, Lennon et al with songs of dizzying ambition and irresistible melodic power. They were ridiculous in a way only a UFO-obsessed 1970s progressive rock could be — yet so catchy their ludicrousness was beside the point.
So it went at a sold-out 3Arena as Lynne, who has asserted ownership over the ensemble by tacking his name on the front, stepped through ‘Evil Woman’, ‘Telephone Line’ and the towering ‘Mr Blue Sky’, chugging riffs building upon chugging riffs as the singer reminded us he possesses one of rock’s most distinctive falsettos.
Amid the retro-future cacophony, Lynne cut a surprisingly matey figure — not at all the stern pop professor one might have expected . He croaked a heartfelt apology for the ill health that required him to postpone the show at the last minute and seemed to share the enthusiasm of an audience soon on its feet waving plastic pint glasses. This was a cosmic encounter to remember.
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