Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra at 3Arena, Dublin, 7th May 2016
Given how 2016 has treated music legends thus far, the news that Jeff Lynne was ‘under doctor’s orders’ to reschedule ELO’s touchdown in Dublin was worrying, to say the least. Thankfully, Lemsip proved a worthy cure and so a week later, he’s ready to bring the intergalactic party powerhouse that is his Electric Light Orchestra to 3Arena. Never has the phrase ‘worth the wait’ been more applicable.
It transpires that the original support band can’t make the new date. Being called upon seemingly last minute to support ELO must provoke both wild excitement and abject terror – but Dubliners The Shoos do an admirable job. It’s a big step up for a band who between songs pause to promote their forthcoming show at Workman’s, but the mix of American-roadtrip rhythms and gritty vocals fill the space effectively – before the stage darkens, in preparation for the mad ‘70s disco that is to come.
In a distinction between ‘set’ and ‘show’, tonight is about more than the music. A huge lighting rig surrounds a screen which beams out kaleidoscopic, warp-speed graphics, zipping us through to a galaxy far, far away where disco is oxygen and dancing is king. Spaceship commander Lynne beams down in a bright white spotlight to open with the foreboding strings of Tightrope, surrounded by a twelve-piece band including two cellists, an opera singer and a man eyeing up the vocoder in hot anticipation.
It all makes for an incredibly rich sound and as the band move seamlessly through Evil Woman, Showdown and All Over The World the only sensible course of action is to sit there open-mouthed, doused in Lynne’s creative brilliance. Each band member is of prodigious talent, meaning that every song is studded with tiny musical diamonds – from the Hungarian-folk violin of Livin’ Thing, to the jazz piano solo on Don’t Bring Me Down, and the clear-cut operatic vocals of Rockaria. More than that, they all seem delighted to be there. It must be a glorious thing to provide the guitar solo on Mr Blue Sky – even more glorious to be the vocoder man – and as the Bee Gees-esque Shine a Little Love fades out and the band introduce themselves, they pause to thank Lynne for “letting us be part of this wonderful Electric Light Orchestra”.
By this point, the audience are on their feet, a standing ovation human dance machine which grooves on through the tight harmony and aching nostalgia of Wild West Hero, and backbeat driven ballad Telephone Line. During the latter, the stage lights up like an overexcited slot machine before forming ELO’s signature spaceship motif and whisking us through a virtual asteroid belt, the band seguing into Turn to Stone – a clear highlight in a set full of them. As lights and audience wave and dance in unison and the band close out with Mr Blue Sky and Roll Over Beethoven, Lynne stands surveying it all, this otherworldly magic that the music has created. For tonight, ELO is pure joy distilled into notes, and rhythms, and lights – “we’re so pleased to be with you/ look around, see what you do/ everybody smiles at you”. Never have a band’s lyrics summed up their own gig so well.