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Jeff Lynne’s ELO plays Detroit in Little Caesars Arena return

Jeff Lynne’s ELO plays Detroit in Little Caesars Arena return

Jeff Lynne’s ELO plays Detroit in Little Caesars Arena return
July 21
10:01 2019

Not so long ago, there was little hope we’d ever get another show of Electric Light Orchestra music from Jeff Lynne, the studio magician who seemed content letting that body of work settle into its place in history.

Now Detroit has been treated twice in 11 months to his pristine, enchanting revival of the classics, as the project dubbed Jeff Lynne’s ELO returned Saturday to Little Caesars Arena. Detroit is one of just four cities to get a repeat date this summer, a year after Lynne toured North America under the ELO banner for the first time since the early ‘80s.

With his ‘fro still rocking, his signature sunglasses in place and his voice in fine shape, the 71-year-old easily rolled back the years with an eloquently rendered set of the melodic symphonic-rock that made his name in the 1970s.

A well-drilled outfit of 12 musicians — including a pair of cellists, a violinist and three keyboardists — helped faithfully reproduce the familiar studio tracks in a 21-song set heavy on hits, with the harmonies occasionally swelling to six voices and two backing vocalists enhancing parts throughout. (Drummer Donovan Hepburn upstaged everyone during band introductions, drawing roars from the Detroit crowd for his Motown Records shirt.)

Note-for-note replications of studio recordings aren’t always what you want in a rock performance, but with ELO’s stuff, it’s exactly what you need: This is music where every hook, nook and cranny seemed crafted with rigor and purpose. Lynne’s songwriting and production prowess made him an in-demand collaborator over time, and Saturday’s warm-up music drove home that point, showcasing the work he created with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, the Beatles and others.

Care and precision don’t have to mean robotic, and there was real warmth and even soul to Saturday’s performance, whether it was right upfront — like the exuberant strings-soaked funk of “Last Train to London” — or nested in the melancholic loveliness of a “Telephone Line.”

A reverential feel took hold at times on Saturday, as fans sat to absorb the skillfully executed performance, although numbers like “Evil Woman,” “Last Train to London” and “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” certainly got more than a few of them up and dancing.

There was little chatter and no fuss as Lynne and company worked up their cosmic pop. “All Over the World” brought a touch of roller-rink disco radiance; “Rockaria” was a tidy blast of rock ‘n’ roll with cinematic strings and operatic vocals; “Livin’ Thing” brought violinist Jessie Murphy up for a solo spot while proving its worth as an enduring piece of ear candy. A lush but spiked “Do Ya,” the old Move song that became an ELO staple, came with a rush of electric guitar, with “Mr. Blue Sky” later doing its jaunty thing to close the main set.

It was all so delightfully dated yet timeless — a glimpse back at an era when taking chances on rock grandeur could pay off. Saturday’s nostalgia trip also got the benefit of modern concert tech, with piercing lasers, exquisite video backdrops and just possibly the best sound the arena has experienced since it opened two years ago.

A poignant moment came midway through: Dhani Harrison, who had opened the evening with his own atmospheric set, stepped out for the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care,” filling the role his dad George Harrison once played alongside Lynne, Orbison, Petty and Bob Dylan. Already an uncanny lookalike, Harrison nailed the vocal nuances of his late Beatle father — and close friend of Lynne — on the friendly 1988 hit.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO will head to Grand Rapids on Tuesday for a show at Van Andel Arena.

Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or

Source: Jeff Lynne’s ELO plays Detroit in Little Caesars Arena return

About Author

Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

Martin A Nethercutt is a writer, singer, producer and loves music. Creative Director at McCartney Studios Editor-in-Chief at McCartney Times Creator-in-Chief at Geist Musik President (title) at McCartney Multimedia, Inc. Went to Albert-Schweitzer-Schule Kassel Lives in Playa del Rey From Kassel, Germany Married to Ruth McCartney

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