Gig review: Jeff Lynne's ELO, SSE Hydro, Glasgow

THE Hydro looked comfortably sold out for one of the biggest noises in 70s pop music, both creatively and commercially.

Musician Jeff Lynne of Jeff Lynne's ELO. Picture: Getty Images
Musician Jeff Lynne of Jeff Lynne's ELO. Picture: Getty Images

Jeff Lynne’s ELO | Rating: **** | SSE Hydro, Glasgow

Various splinter versions of the Electric Light Orchestra have been and gone, but the band’s lynchpin Jeff Lynne has stamped his ownership over the name on new album, Alone in the Universe, which was essentially a solo studio venture, and this lavish live return, for which he has recruited a well drilled, super-slick new touring band. Only keyboard player Richard Tandy survives from earlier line-ups to provide the crucial talk box contributions.

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The 90-minute set delivered many maximalist pop thrills, such as the heady swirl of the strings on Evil Woman, the melodramatic Latin flourish on the violin at the start of Livin’ Thing, one of Lynne’s most undeniable air-punching tunes, and the natural uplift of All Over The World, which rolls the communal celebration of Dancing In The Streets and Surfin’ USA into one proficient pastiche.

New songs or old, Lynne’s musical MO has always involved expert appropriation of the pop melodies of The Beatles, the heady harmonies of The Beach Boys, the chugging rhythms of glam rock and the symphonic bombast of prog, all finished with a high gloss veneer.

Despite the slick production of the sound, his songs often have a mess of the blues, the manicured desolation of Telephone Line being a fine example from this set. I have far less affection for the sub-Dylan rootsy references, the 1950s nostalgia numbers and the ploddy pub rocking of Wild West Hero and Don’t Bring Me Down, though there was clearly catharsis in this latter kiss-off for many in the crowd. Meanwhile, poor old Horace Wimp didn’t even get a look-in.

The brawny Turn To Stone was heralded with an asteroid shower on the big screens – such cosmic visuals were simultaneously hi-tech and old school, harking back to ELO’s days as arena pioneers while still holding their own against today’s theatrical pop extravaganzas.

Most of the drama here came from the dynamic musical arrangements. The propulsive Mr Blue Sky was sheer euphoria across several movements and a suitable climax to festivities. Though this was rather undermined by encoring with their stodgy version of Roll Over Beethoven, the equivalent of one drink too many at the end of an otherwise jovial night.