ELO: What Their BBC ‘In Concert’ Performance Tells Us About Next Year’s Arena Tour

Last Thursday, ELO performed a one-hour special for the BBC which you can still find lurking on your red button or stream online here. The day after, demand for their 2016 Alone In The Universe tour was such that a third O2 Arena date was added to the 10-night run at XXL-sized venues nationwide. But what can fans of the iconic group, rarely seen on live stages for the best part of 30 years, expect?

They’ll play hits. Lots and lots of hits.
Jeff Lynne brought the hits to the BBC’s Radio Theatre. Not just a smattering of hits, but the biggest, best-known and most obvious hits of the Brummie pop band’s career, from ‘Evil Woman’ to ‘Turn To Stone’, ‘Livin’ Thing’ to ‘Telephone Line’ and all the rest. Apart from a few songs from new album ‘Alone In The Universe’ and a very slightly reworked version of 1977 album track ‘Steppin’ Out’, the setlist read like the back of a compilationentitled ‘The Very Very Best Of ELO And No Shit You Might Not Already Know’. No bad thing, because ELO hits are made of pure joy.

Jeff Lynne will look the same as he always did
What ‘Strange Magic’ keeps ELO’s poodle-coiffed frontman looking exactly the same as the man pictured peering over the blue planet on the cover of 1973’s ‘On The Third Day’? Four decades may have passed, but Lynne’s been frozen in time, his rhomboid hair, aviator shades and bomber jacket a testament to finding your look and sticking with it. The ageless Lynne lives in LA now; he must bathe in factor 50.

Jeff Lynne will look slightly more comfortable on stage than he used to
Back in ELO’s heyday, Jeff’s on-stage schtick was to remain as motionless as possible while bearing the expression of a man trying to work out if he left the iron on when he left the house that morning. This was at odds with the effort put in to other elements of the show, like rigging up a neon spaceship for 1978’s Out Of The Blue tour. Liam Gallagher having since stolen Lynne’s on-stage statue thing, the ELO mastermind has relaxed a bit, peppering his set with a bit of fixed-feet swaying and goofy thumbs-ups stuff like his mate Macca. He will also be very, very pleased to see the arena crowds. “You’re fantastic, you lot,” he repeatedly told the 400 lucky competition winners on Thursday.

There will be strings
The O stands for Orchestra, and Jeff Lynne doesn’t disappoint. On Thursday, it was strings from the BBC Concert Orchestra. Bet on Lynne taking a huge cast of similarly frustrated looking classical artistes to an arena near you.

There will be new material that doesn’t suck
ELO’s new album, ‘Alone In The Universe’, is not half bad. “Lynne’s melodic sparkle, as ever, acts as ELO’s warp drive,” wrote NME’s Mark Beaumont in his review. Expect actually good new material, then, at next year’s arena shows, including the Beatlesiest song since The Beatles, recent single ‘When I Was A Boy’.

Richard Tandy will look like Nick Hewer while singing into a vocoder
Along with Lynne, keyboard player Richard Tandy is the sole mainstay in the present-day ELO line-up, and there’s clearly a warm camaraderie between them. Tandy has the vibe of former Apprentice tutter Nick Hewer – he of the arched eyebrows – and his occasional robot-voiced vocoder interjections (example: the “please turn me over” bit in ‘Mr Blue Sky’) are delivered with strangely ceremonial precision to his and Lynne’s clear delight. A beautiful thing to watch.

They also need to play Glastonbury
ELO’s BBC show ended with the effervescent mega-hit ‘Mr Blue Sky’, which saw the audience bouncing and singing along then rocking out to the epic outro.Transplant that to a field in Somerset where it’s probably raining, but there’s a break in the clouds and the sun starts beaming down and – yep, we just completed Glastonbury.