​​Jeff Lynne’s ELO at the Hollywood Bowl

Larson Sutton on October 13, 2016

photo credit: Matthew Imaging

Jeff Lynne’s ELO
Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles
September 10

Throughout this Saturday night show, during a weekend of three sold-out appearances at the Bowl, Jeff Lynne and his Electric Light Orchestra’s performance was as whimsical as it was precise, as carefully curated as it was magical. Yet, for all the nostalgic nods to the 1970s zenith of the group’s career, and there were plenty, maybe the most poignant moment came from an unexpected place.

Ostensibly in support of last year’s Alone in the Universe, the trio of Los Angeles shows marked three of only five U.S. dates this year (the other two in New York City). More a Lynne/ELO event than a tour stop, the evening was meticulously presented, opening with a short program of classical works. Led by conductor Thomas Wilkins, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra acknowledged ELO’s unique marriage of rock and symphony in its choice of compositions before Lynne and his ensemble of 12 joined them.

The Bowl acted as a player as well. Cosmic projections swirled on its famed whitewashed arch and flanking light towers. The audience became a canvas for prisms of multicolored laser beams cutting through dry ice
fog and dancing in the surrounding trees. A rundown of ELO standards came early and often, with “Evil Woman” slotted as the show’s second entry. For his part, Lynne stayed politely brief and appreciative, speaking only a few times between the barrage of hits.

His timeless voice, buttressed by a trio of singers, including his daughter Laura, carried the indelible melodies and falsetto peaks on “Showdown” and “All Over the World.” Violinist Rosie Langley stepped into the light for FM staple “Livin’ Thing,” before a trip forward to the sole Alone in the Universe cut, “When I Was a Boy.” With a simple spinning 45 as his backdrop, Lynne’s touching autobiographical ballad raised as many cellphone cameras as classics like “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” “Turn to Stone” and “Telephone Line,” the first of which featured the classically quirky affected vocal of longtime keyboardist Richard Tandy.

There wasn’t much missing. “10538 Overture,” from the group’s 1971 debut, anchored the show’s midpoint, and the celebratory duo of “Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Mr. Blue Sky” closed Lynne’s set. After a group
selfie, the show went into sensory overload. Lasers and streams of light flooded the stage and crowd, as twirling white sparklers spun and crackled above the Bowl’s façade. Flares off fireworks shot into the
clear late-summer darkness, while the multitude of musicians rocked an encore of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.”

Clearly, this was a performance conceived, designed and executed to dazzle and delight. Every visual had purpose, connected to each lyric and symphonic nuance of Lynne’s brilliant catalog. Still, in all its theatrics, the show never once lost sight of that English boy who, decades ago, wanted only to play music.