It is quite rare that you see a concert where the number of songs on the set list is actually fewer than the number of the band’s top 40 hits, but Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra’s 18-song setlist came two short of the amount of charted hits from the band’s illustrious original 13-year career, where the band sold 50 million records and received 21 RIAA and 38 BPI awards. Those are just some of the tremendous statistics that I could conjure up about the tremendous career of one of the foremost progressive rock bands of the rock n’ roll era, but when I saw the reformed band of Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy, two of the four originals (Tandy joined in 1972, two years after the bands founding) the band was solely concentrated on providing a bang-up performance for a sold-out Radio City audience, and that is what they did.
ELO formed out of the 1960’s early prog rock band, The Move, which was led by multi-instrumentalist Roy Wood. Lynne, who would later go on to produce a slew of records and help create the Traveling Wilburys (as Otis Wilbury), initially played second fiddle to Wood (inside joke for those who know what ELO was referred to in the States), but after Wood left the band in 1972, Lynne, Tandy, and drummer Bev Bevan released a remarkable collection of records, including a three year period where the band released Face the Music (1975), A New World Record (1976), and Out of the Blue (1977), a three-year assemblage of ELO hits, many of which were played during the Sept. 18 performance at the home of The Rockettes.
ELO mastered the craft of combining an infectious upbeat rock/pop sound with classical music. Many bands, like ELO, added such orchestrations to their music, but ELO was able to release songs with such efficacious alacrity that their success almost drowned out other bands trying to keep up with this pop/classical sound; thus, ELO was not only a pioneer but also the best in the business. It, therefore, was no surprise the ELO sold out two shows at Radio City Music Hall, and garnered a truly diverse crowd of several generations who enjoyed their music.
With vivacious crowd in tow, Jeff Lynne played a 1.5-hour set fit with a tremendous backing band and psychedelic video pairings. The crowd sang along with almost every song, and Lynne did a great job sprinkling hits throughout the set list, and then eventually bringing it home with a 9-song (yes, half the set list) string of songs that covered the full spectrum of why ELO is such a tremendous band.
Akin to nine straight hits in a baseball game, Lynne and his band played each song with an adept passion that obviously endeared the eager crowd and spawned the 6,000+ person arena to sing along with each noticeable song. It was too tempting not to join in, and I was there among the masses singing to each song. That is the joy of concerts like that from ELO, though, right? You go to sing along with the songs you love. Concerts, while communal, are still personal (somewhat singular) events where each goer responds to the music how he/she would like to respond. I always wanted to see ELO in concert as an ardent fan of their music, and I, my dad (my ever-present concert benefactor), and the rest of the crowd, was treated to a wonderful, energetic performance by a tight-knit group who knows the meaning of fun, catchy tunes. And, because why not, here is a live version of “Mr. Blue Sky” from 2001.