Jeff Lynne’s ELO at Wembley Stadium
Up in the sky, helicopters circled among rumours that a UFO had been sighted hovering above Wembley stadium. The spacecraft sat comfortably above the stage and appeared only to have the markings of Jeff Lynne’s ELO scribed on its screen, the master and conductor of tonight’s transformation from stadium to space station. Audiences gathered in their thousands, the same markings spread across their shirts to witness the spectacle.
Performer and Keane frontman Tom Chaplin strode across the stage sporting a sparkly gold and silver jacket and sang the opening track Still Waiting from his debut solo album The Wave. Hardened Heart exhibited Chaplin’s soaring vocals that somewhat parallel The Killers singer Brandon Flowers as, at times, the vocal similarities between the two are indistinguishable – both appear to emulate the bruised American twang in a Springsteen-eque ode to the working class hero.
Quicksand, dedicated to his daughter, though warbling thinly on Duran Duran’s Ordinary World is the warm reassurance why audiences fell in love with Keane and specifically Chaplin’s earnest songwriting. There was a collective sigh of admiration as the singer performed a number of the band’s hits including Silenced by the Night, Bedshaped and Somewhere Only We Know, a solid warm up for the night’s headline act.
But suddenly the heavens opened. Torrents of rain fell down upon the screen as operatic opener Standing in the Rain lit up fans and sparked cheers across the stadium. Fires blazed and audiences roared, as artist Jeff Lynne, dressed in all black, was ready to pilot listeners into the furthest corners of space, singing tracks such as Evil Woman and All Over the World as easily as three decades ago. A few curveballs were thrown as Xanadu gathered a few collective wiggles and the song Handle with Care, taken from Lynne’s Travelling Wilburys supergroup, was met with respectful cheers.
10538 Overture, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle and Sweet Talkin Woman displayed flourishes of classical arrangements and melodic rock that undoubtedly exhibit Lynne’s intricate songwriting and eclectic melodic scope, which deemed him one of the most sought-after producers in the 1980s. His influence is inescapable in contemporary music and has inspired prestigious artists such as Paul Weller and Daft Punk.
The concert was a slick well-oiled machine running exactly as planned, however the regimented stop-start order in which songs were performed felt oddly alien and lacked any real vigour to launch listeners quite as high as they wanted to go.
The night finally descended into ocular overdrive with the spectrum of trippy Technicolor visuals that streaked across the screen as asteroids ricocheted and lasers beamed into the sky. Both speakers and spaceship erupted as Lynne and his band performed a flurry of hits such as Turn to Stone, Don’t Bring Me Down and Mr Blue Sky, elevating fans into sheer ecstasy and sending them sky-high, but never quite breaching the fringes of space.
Photos: Nick Bennett
For further information and future events visit the ELO website here.