Strap yourselves in everyone, because we’ve got a bit of history and a lot of songs to go through today. Today is, shall we say, the big day, hence why this jumbo sized review fits in nicely.
We’ll start with the history. Yesterday we left off in 1974 and today we find ourselves in 2001. So what happened? Well, first, all of the live stuff up to 1980 was covered last year in ELO Week 1 and, second, there wasn’t any official live stuff released from 1980 through to the band’s first dissolution in 1986. But that’s not the end of the story yet, as the ELO name still lived on between 1989 and 2001 in the form of ELO Part 2.
ELO Part 2 were actually more than just a random tribute band too as Bev Bevan owned half of the rights to the ELO name. It even featured a number of former ELO members (though, crucially, not band leader Jeff Lynne). The band actually made something of themselves, touring for many years and releasing a duo of studio and live albums before changing their name to The Orchestra in 2000 (coinciding with Bev Bevan selling his half of the name to Jeff Lynne) and continuing on from there.
But that’s not the focus of today (maybe next year’s ELO week will focus on ELO 2). The focus of today is this live document of Jeff Lynne’s first reformation of ELO. This reformation was really in name only, as Richard Tandy was the only former member to be invited back (the prevailing theory being that this was his reward from abstaining from ELO Part 2). Furthermore, while there were plenty of guests appearing on the 2001 studio album Zoom (including both George Harrison and Ringo Starr), only Jeff Lynne played on every song. Now despite this live DVD being referred to as being from the Zoom tour, the Zoom tour was actually cancelled due to slow ticket sales (with the band going back on hiatus shortly after). This is instead from one of only two television appearances which were done to support the album.
So with all that out of the way, let’s get to the tracks. Yes, all twenty three of them. So let’s start. The show opens with the confusing, but no less spectacular choice to play “Do Ya”. Jeff’s in fine voice and the band are all great at their jobs, it’s just that it’s not traditionally an ELO opener. A trivial matter, at the end of the day, as we go into “Evil Woman”, and one of the best versions of it at that (check out the song of the week for the song for a more in-depth take). Then we get to “Showdown”. The song itself is done really well, as per the ELO standard, though it’s an unremarkable song choice so I’ll take some time to appreciate the widescreen aspect ratio, especially in 2001.
Now we get to our first deep cut of the night: “Strange Magic”. The soft and tender ballad is very much a lesser played track in the ELO discography, so even though I don’t rate it too highly compared to other songs, I’m still glad to see it when it pops up. It certainly hasn’t overstayed it’s welcome. The same goes for the following song “Livin’ Thing”. And now we hit the first song off Zoom. And it’s the best one too. “Alright” is definitely on the rock and roll side of ELO and the rich chorus melody is the highlight, recreated superbly here by backing vocalist Rosie Vela. That’s right, we actually have, for the first time in ELO history, a female backing vocalist on stage with the band. And it definitely helps do some of those harmonies justice.
“Lonesome Lullaby” (also from Zoom) comes next. It’s slower but still with ample electric guitar. It’s pretty good. I even forgot there were better songs in the ELO catalogue as I listened to it, especially on the chorus. Fan-favorite “Telephone Line” follows. I’m not as hot on the song as most people, but I can still appreciate the song, and this is a good rendition of it. The next song, “Turn to Stone” is done great as well, the rapid-fire falsetto section always gets a cheer.
And now we’re back to Zoom with the mostly acoustic “Just For Love”. It’s not a bad song but it just lacks that magic that a lot of ELO songs have. A fair amount of Zoom had that same problem. One that doesn’t have that problem though is the next song, “Easy Money”. We’re back to the rock and roll to spectacular effect. “Easy Money” is a fun, energetic romp and Jeff Lynne even drops an s-bomb from out of nowhere (pun fully intended).
And we ride that high straight into “Mr Blue Sky”. It’s a little weird hearing it this early into the set, but it’s always a really fun one. Tandy lends his voice to the vocoder and it’s great to see the fire extinguisher as a percussion instrument is alive and well. “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle” is alive and well too, if just a tad softer due to Jeff’s age. And speaking of age, we have the lush ballad “One Summer Dream” up next, which is actually not from Zoom but from 1975’s Face the Music. Talk about a deep cut, I think this might even be its live debut.
Another rare track follows: the much-mentioned “Tightrope”. I love this song. It’s really heavy on the atmosphere, but still an upbeat and fun ride. Jeff even makes an adorable little vocal flub as he starts the wrong line, resulting in ‘When I c-looked around’. But he’s all smiles. This show has that effect on you. And before we go into the next song I’m going to gush over Richard Tandy’s stage presence. I can’t help but smile every time I see the keyboardist’s infectious enjoyment. I never realized how much I missed seeing him on stage until I watched this show again for the review. And why do I bring him up now? Because the rock and roll goodness of “State of Mind” from Zoom is absolutely enhanced on stage by Tandy, the highlight being the moment you get to see his headbanging as he plays along (weird sentence yes, but just go with it. This is the band that featured a duckwalking violinist).
So we now move on to a song introduced with ‘it’s quite good because you’ll know this one basically’. Yep, I know it. It’s “Can’t Get it Out of My Head”, and the Eldorado ballad is always welcome. Zoom is welcome too, but in moderation. I probably could have done without “Moment in Paradise”. A ballady number, it’s alright, but a little straining on the vocals. Jeff sounds a little shaky at times on it. But what I couldn’t have done without it “10538 Overture”, the very first ELO single. Though sporting a softer edge than the original, it’s still undeniably ELO and fits in well with the rest of the songs on the disc, even interpolating the riff of “Do Ya” for a little bit (a throwback to when the two songs were performed as a medley).
We get our final Zoom track now, “Ordinary Dream”. It too is alright (another pun intended) but this late in the show is probably not the best place for a Zoom track, especially a ballad. But it’s over quick and we’re treated to some Discovery tracks. The first “Shine a Little Love” is very much appreciated. Sure it’s a bit disco but it’s also a lot good. And it works live quite well too. So does “Don’t Bring Me Down” from the same album. The stomping mega-hit is rendered in brilliant fashion, and is followed, of course, by longtime closer, “Roll Over Beethoven”. Man, what a treat. Jeff sings the bridge for the first time in decades, the delivery on the ‘tell Tchaikovsky the news’ line was straight out of 1972 and I love the dignified throw back of his head that Tandy does when going into the bridge. This is a hell of a show.
Of course, being in support of the Zoom album means there’s a lot of songs from that album here. I don’t mind too much. Though there was a bit of an imbalance between soft and rock songs on that album, all the songs I’d like to hear from it were played and there’s still a tonne of songs from their other albums played here too. The only ones that I wish we could have had played were “Rock and Roll is King”, which was actually played and not included on the DVD, and “Rockaria!”. But all in all it’s still a lot of ELO for your money and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
The DVD also has some good ol’ bonus features. The first is a short, ten-minute interview with Jeff Lynne. You’ll get a little bit of insight into why ELO disbanded in the first place, the recording and songs of Zoom, some Wilburys stuff and, what was then, future plans. The next little feature is a short two minutes dedicated to some of the fans in the audience, filmed while they wait for the show. It’s always cool to see the fans, and there were a couple of Australian ones in there too. The last bonus feature is just a text slideshow giving a brief history of Zoom. As always, bonus features are never essential, but they are always appreciated.
And so with that this mammoth review is finally drawing to a close. And in the end, even with a heavy presence of songs from Zoom, this is still one of the best and most comprehensive ELO live releases out there. It’s also one of the most elusive, which is a real shame. The performances are all really solid and there’s so many great songs on here. Definitely worth getting if you see it in the wild-
The verdict- 4.5/5 stars
But we’re not actually finished with this show yet. Come back tomorrow to find out how.