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In The Flesh

Live Review & Photo Gallery: Jeff Lynne’s ELO at Allstate Arena

| August 18, 2018

Jeff Lynne’s ELO
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The famous Electric Light Orchestra jukebox spaceship descended upon the Chicago area for the first time in 37 years on Wednesday, when Jeff Lynne brought his innovative fusion of rock, pop and classical elements to Rosemont. Generations of fans packed Allstate Arena to capacity, ranging from septuagenarians who knew every word of “10538 Overture” from ELO’s 1972 debut to kids who discovered “Mr. Blue Sky” alongside dancing baby Groot in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy film.

The rapturous response wasn’t lost on Lynne, who had disbanded the original ELO lineup in 1986 as his status as producer rose alongside albums by heroes and personal friends George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison. ELO’s prior Chicago date had been in 1981 at Chicago Stadium supporting the Time album. “It’s marvelous to be back after all these years,” said Lynne, flashing the first of many double thumbs-ups to the crowd after burning through 1975 chestnut “Evil Woman.” Lynne continued his warm greeting to Chicago, saying, “You’re still as great, and as lovely as ever.”

Mostly, Lynne let the tunes do the talking. The set emphasized ELO’s late-70s hit-making heyday with songs like “Livin’ Thing” from 1976’s A New World Record. The show was bookended with tracks from side three of 1977 double-LP Out of the Blue, and its “Concerto for a Rainy Day.” “Standin’ in the Rain” began the show with the orchestral flourish of Lynne’s string section and crashing thunder, before launching into a driving rock groove. At the other end of the concert, “Mr. Blue Sky” brought the main set to its thrilling conclusion with celebratory high spirit.

In between, Lynne wore his musical heart on his sleeve with songs that revealed key influences including the Beatles, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry and classical music figureheads. Lynne’s familiar voice took the ‘70s nostalgia of ballads like the melancholy “Telephone Line” and winsome daydream “Can’t Get it Out of My Head” and made it seem timeless instead. The same mood inhabited “When I Was a Boy” from 2015’s Alone in the Universe album.

“Now we’re gonna do one by my other group, which is called the Traveling Wilburys,” said Lynne, introducing the jangling “Handle With Care.” As screens behind the stage showed footage of the band, cheers erupted at the sight of dearly departed Tom Petty and beloved Beatle George Harrison.

A backing band of twelve accomplished players and younger bucks lashed into the rollicking “Rockaria!,” led by Melanie Lewis McDonald’s operatic soprano. Bassist Lee Pomeroy danced and clowned while the group diverted into disco territory with “All Over the World” and the hand-clapping “Shine a Little Love.” Drummer Donovan Hepburn kept the beat hard and heavy as the crowd sang along to “Don’t Bring Me Down.” Keyboardist Steve Turner dazzled during “Turn to Stone.” Pianist Marcus Byrne propelled the perfect pop of “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” and sang the familiar vocoder parts in synthesized robotic voice. Lynne took his share of tasty solos on his trademark black Gibson Les Paul, but gave the spotlight to Milton McDonald’s hot slide guitar during a rowdy encore of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.”

Even deep cuts like the cinematic and majestic “Wild West Hero” were received like smash hits. Although Lynne avoided 80s-era tracks from Time, Balance of Power, and his newly reissued double-LP version of 1983’s Secret Messages, the sharp playing and bevy of other favorites satisfied the throng of fans who had waited decades to see their hero in action. The stage-shy Lynne at 70 may not have more touring planned. After only a pair of North American tour stops in 2016, however, many thought he would never return to Chicago at all. On the big night in Rosemont, Lynne and company were worth the wait.

Opening band Dawes introduced songs from new album Passwords, including the smooth FM-pop harmony of “Feed the Fire.” “Living in the Future” described the modern sensibility that society has crossed a line into uncivilized terrain, while encouraging the effort to “shine a little light” and spread some much-needed goodwill. Dawes concluded by dedicating “All Your Favorite Bands” to ELO and its fans. “May all your favorite bands stay together,” sang frontman Taylor Goldsmith, in a truly kind-hearted sentiment.

Review by Jeff Elbel; Photos by Ed Spinelli


Standin’ in the Rain
Evil Woman
All Over the World
Do Ya
When I Was a Boy
Livin’ Thing
Handle With Care (Traveling Wilburys)
Can’t Get It Out of My Head
10538 Overture
Shine a Little Love
Wild West Hero
Telephone Line
Sweet Talkin’ Woman
Don’t Bring Me Down
Turn to Stone
Mr. Blue Sky

Roll Over Beethoven

This review was corrected  for album release dates for A New World Record and Out of the Blue.

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Category: IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews, Stage Buzz

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  1. Lynn Hoskins says:

    I really enjoyed this review. Jeff Eibel is clearly very knowledgeable on the subject of Jeff Lynne and ELO. He did a great job describing not just the music, but the audience emotion that accompanied each song.