Jeff Lynne's Electric Light
Orchestra Flies Into Anaheim!
Review by James West,
Photos by Danette West,
As a teen growing up in the 1970s my choices in radio stations were limited really to only one that came in loud in clear out in the sticks where I lived in Arkansas, and that station was WLS out of Chicago- Welcome to the world of AM radio at its best! So, the selection of songs you listened to were mainly Top 40 Pop, Rock, and Disco songs, many of which were condensed down to the 3:30 min average playtime that was the standard of the day (I still feel for poor, poor, Foghat when I hear the edited down version of Slow Ride! Ha!).
The Electric Light Orchestra though were one of those bands that WLS simply loved! Three to four- minute songs, nice catchy hooks, and even cooler lyric melodies that sounded like the Beatles- ELO was a safe bet for radio, and ELO sure didn’t mind radio either. From 1974-1979 the amount and quality of radio-friendly hits by ELO was astounding. While I was mostly into heavier rock like Kiss and Aerosmith at the time, no-one could resist the spell that Jeff Lynne and company had cast over America’s airwaves.
Fast forward forty years to now: When music… make that any kind of music, is easily available instantly on either your phone, your USB, your Pandora, your Apple, hell, anywhere… and what music do most classic rockers listen to? Well, the classic rock of the 1970s of course!
Help! It's an Aack! Attack!!!
The Rocker Chic and I asked our web site illustrator Aack! what concert he wished he could witness in celebration of his birthday, and "Out of the Blue" he proclaimed he would like to see Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra! Not Kiss, not Aerosmith, not even the Rolling Stones, but ELO? “Ok, Aack! What kind of Strange Magic has taken over your senses?” I asked him. He simply replied, “Lots of hits, big light show, great sound… Fun for everyone!” And he was absolutely right on track in describing what we all witnessed June 20th at the Honda Center in Anaheim!
With The Rocker Chic, myself and Aack! sporting our new Rocker T-Shirts we made our way through the crowd check in point to our seats at the Honda Center. It was mostly an older, ‘distinguished’, sort of crowd on hand. Not many were wearing concert shirts except for the occasional Paul McCartney or Eagles shirt. It was almost like they were attending an informal dinner or something wearing mostly Hawaiian shirts… but then the music happened.
Danette and I at Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra concert on June 20, 2019 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Aack! was with us too; however, he prefers to be incognito amigo! Hey, get your own "The Rocker" T-Shirt here at our Zazzle Store!
Lookout! There's some Beatle Spawn in the House!
There wasn’t too much excitement during the opening set by Dhani Harrison; although, the music wasn’t that bad. You could tell he was very comfortable being out of the shadow of his famous father’s legacy. His songs seemed a bit dark in tone to me, even though at times you could hear George’s high register in his son’s voice peering through. The crowd seemed to be cheering him along through his set, and Dhani was very courteous and thankful to both the crowd and Jeff Lynne for allowing him to open shows for him this tour. But, for some reason I just thought for sure he would at least sing one of his dad’s songs or put his own spin on a Beatle’s melody in honor of George Harrison.
The Mothership Lands...
or does it?
After about a half-hour break and climbing up and down the almost 90-degree incline at the back of the Honda Center we were finally settled back in for Aack’s birthday band to take the stage. From watching old ELO concert footage I thought for sure a spaceship would come down from the rafters with the band coming out to great applause, but instead, we were given a few sizzle effects from the huge monitors that were stationed behind the band while the bottom part of the ELO ship just kind of hovered during most of the show up on the screens. It was a little disappointing, but I can’t blame the 71-year-old Lynne for not wanting to be jumping out of spaceships at his age!
The lighting effects were another story though; There’s a reason “Light” is in this groups’ name after-all! Lights, flash pots, and especially Lasers…. I mean, Lots of friggin’ Lasers! were used to tremendous effect to emphasize and guide each song along. Recent concerts by Kiss and Queen that we’ve seen had similar awesome results in using both mood and energy lighting and lasers to help guide the crowd through their song’s performances.
Jeff Lynne still looked in fine form both musically and vocally, and had a loose but well-orchestrated command over all the musicians and backup singers during the 20-song set of mostly hits with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.
It felt almost like 1979 and WLS AM Radio all over again with the onslaught of hit after hit from this amazing singer/songwriter/producer and his band of talented musicians. The sold-out crowd felt the same excitement and joy as I did in re-living masterpieces like Evil Woman, Showdown, Turn To Stone, and my personal favorite, Do Ya!
First it was the slightly drunk middle-aged lady midway up the arena, then the younger husband and wife in karaoke-mode, then the whole crowd soon joined in the fun with celebrating these classic songs. The lights, the lasers, the sound, but most importantly, the songs themselves, were undeniable in bringing this show to great heights that night!
Xanadu For You!!!
They even played a few of Aack’s favorites, including Last Train To London, Rockaria, and even Xanadu... yes he likes Xanadu! Believe it not, Xanadu sounded awesome even without having Olivia Newton John roller skating around. Aack and The Rocker Chic brought out other great points also, in that the crowd willingly joined in the fun of singing along with the songs, and they enjoyed the show by not being coerced or forced into contributing like some current rock acts do as part of demanding crowd reaction during their shows. Younger bands please take note: The best crowds are those who participate willingly and naturally!
In other surprises, my hopes were somewhat revitalized when Dhani Harrison did make a welcomed return to the stage to perform with Lynne on the Traveling Wilburys’ track Handle With Care. It was also a great testimony of just how much output and life Jeff Lynne has injected into classic rock’s bloodstream over the last 40 years. The era of writer/singer/producer in mainstream music may soon be drawing to a close when Lynne and “Originals” like McCartney and The Stones finally hang up the Les Paul and turn off the Microphone.
Until then, I’ll settle for catching that Last Train To London… Well, in this case- Anaheim, for a Night In The City with a chance to witness Classic Rock Gods still willing to demonstrate what a true Rock and Roll Show is all about- Celebration and Substance. No, not the substance you inhaled by the guy in the row in front of you, but by real original talent. Legends who are a master of their craft, like Jeff Lynne!