To say I was excited at seeing Jeff Lynne and ELO play his home town of Birmingham would be an understatement! I have only see the Jeff Lynne fronted ELO once back at his comeback gig at Hyde Park in 2014. But first we had a wander around the local area near the Arena which has changed a lot since I was last in Birmingham back in the late 1980’s. The area has changed a lot needless to say with the canals area restored and plenty of restaurants and bars nearby, along with the impressive new Birmingham Rep/library building. Mind you avoid the library cafe as it is overpriced. This fella was outside the Legoland Experience…
Billy Lockett was the support, an up and coming singer/songwriter who I had not heard of prior to tonight. Backed by a guitarist and a drummer, with himself centre stage on keyboards, Billy Lockett was impressive with his songs going from the grandiose, to more reflective songs. He has a great ear for melody and impressed the arena crowd, most of whom had taken their seats unlike many rock gigs where the audience prop up the bars during a support act. ‘Fading Into Gray’ was a stand out and I am off to hear more from this artist who is on the up and up.
Jeff Lynne was backed by twelve highly talented musicians, led by musical director Mike Stevens (10CC, Take That), although sadly no Richard Tandy on piano this time around. Most of the band were at the Hyde Park show in 2014, bar a new string trio and keyboards player Jo Webb.
Opening with ‘Standin’ In The Rain’ and what a way to start with an orchestral piece full of strings, keys, guitar and Jeff Lynne’s distinctive vocals that are still sounding good. Added to that the first look at the wondrous light and visuals, an integral part of any ELO performance.
It was a hit filled set including ‘Telephone Line’, ‘Wild West Hero’, ‘Do Ya’, ‘Turn To Stone’ and being a Saturday night, a little disco in ‘Last Train To London’. The only time the spotlight literally fell on Jeff Lynne was on the ‘comeback’ single ‘When I Was A Boy’ – the only ELO song since 1980 played this evening.
A personal highlight was hearing ‘Rockaria!’ performed live with backing vocalist Melanie Lewis-McDonald hitting those operatic high notes perfectly.
Jeff Lynne doesn’t really do much in between song chat, even leaving the band introductions to Mike Stevens. He did however give an introduction to his ‘other band’ the Travelling Wilburys, before launching into ‘Handle With Care’, with Iain Hornal taking on the lead vocals.
The whole band seemed to be having a great time, none more so than bassist Lee Pomeroy (It Bites, Take That) who seemed to be performing the dying fly on stage at one point!
‘Mr Blue Sky’ closed the show in style with every person in the arena singing along, even some of the arena staff. To hear that live is a real musical high point.
Chuck Berry’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ was the encore which allowed the band to have an extended rock ‘n’ roll jam session.
Jeff Lynne was suitably humbled by the reception he received from the audience tonight and long may he continue touring ELO. A wonderful night of classic ELO songs played by a talented set of musicians, with lights and visuals to dazzle and of course, Jeff Lynne at the centre of it all, navigating the ELO spaceship.
Standin’ In The Rain
All Over The World
When I Was A Boy
Handle With Care (The Travellng Wilburys)
Last Train to London
Shine A Little Love
Wild West Hero
Sweet Talkin’ Woman
Don’t Bring Me Down
Turn To Stone
Mr Blue Sky
Roll Over Beethoven