10 September 2016, Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
This just might be among the best live concerts I’ve ever seen. It should have been longer and it should have been louder, but it was visually and aurally spectacular and, similar to when I saw Barbra Streisand last month, I was aware that I was among the very privileged few even getting to see this show, Jeff Lynne’s ELO tour of the US playing only three nights in Los Angeles and two nights in New York, and nowhere else.
It was tough to get a ticket at all, and it was further back than I like to be, and getting close-ups was nigh impossible as Jeff Lynne eschews hard bright lighting for himself, although other members of his band were well-lit and the special effect lighting that reached out into the packed audience – shooting laser lights and colourful beams, projections on pylons, and of course the closing fireworks – were dazzling. I was just so overjoyed to be there.
And when he (for it’s all Jeff Lynne, really, given that this isn’t anything close to the original line-up of Electric Light Orchestra, except for the inclusion of Richard Tandy) opened the show with “Tightrope”, the first track on one of my all-time seminal ‘70s albums, A New World Record, in fact in my top five albums of all time, I just wanted him to do the album in sequence in its entirety. The sound in concert was so perfect, it could have been the record playing, but it was more powerful, more deep, especially given the backup of that massive orchestra, the classical players quite in their element. From A New World Record there were four songs, the others being ‘Livin’ Thing” (of course, and so gorgeous), “Telephone Line” (with the shell of the Hollywood Bowl lit up like a rotary dial on an old phone), and my favourite, “Rockaria!”, so completely crazily wonderful and yes I can sing every word, as could many of the other people in the audience who, like me, had longed for this show for decades (I’d seen ELO in Sydney in 1978 and so it was a 38-year wait for me).
We were also singing to every word of “Turn To Stone” while the visuals on screen behind the orchestra seemed to hurl stones out onto the stage, and you can guess what was on the screen during “Mr. Blue Sky”. But it never felt cheesy or clichéd, because it was Jeff Lynne, the most humble, self-effacing musical genius of our lifetime.
I was so glad he played my favourite song from the early ELO period, “Showdown”, as well as the glorious meg-hit “Evil Woman”. But he didn’t play “Strange Magic” or “So Fine”, even though it was extraordinarily magical and it was so very very fine. What an outstanding end to the LA summer concert season. How so very lucky am I.
PS. I thought I saw the mayor there but I wasn’t really sure.