A brief re-launch of a ’70s luminous spaceship with spectacular, if hardly glorious, results.
ELO have been one man’s personal circus ever since Roy Wood left the arena but there still was a collective air, which all but evaporated in 2001 when keyboardist Richard Tandy’s appearance on "Zoom" gave Jeff Lynne an opportunity to brand it as their old band. And so it was when they played on the soundstage, over two consecutive nights, in LA’s CBS Television City for a TV programme and, later, a video release. Its audio companion, seeing the light of day a dozen years on, boils the set down to 11 tracks from the original 23 and, thus, makes the songs’ impact stronger, even though the telepathic rhythm of the Bissonette brothers somehow eats away at the previous line-ups’ anarchic sway.
Not that it matters in the span from the piano-laden effervescent “Evil Woman” to the lush “Roll Over Beethoven” where almost all of the classic albums are touched upon, with the streamlined, steaming “Secret Messages” never taken to the public before, yet not a single lick off the ensemble’s latest record. Perhaps, that would’ve been a sign of the age because, on what’s being played here, Lynne sounds as youthful as back in the ’70s if not more, and the disco charge of “Twilight” is still catchy as hell its emboldened gloss notwithstanding. Yet on “Mr. Blue Sky” or “Showdown” the now-faceless strings, while wrapping “Livin’ Thing” in a fresh cloth, don’t get to the erstwhile smooth wildness of this operation, whereas “Don’t Bring Me Down” boogies in fine style, not in the least thanks to Marc Mann’s guitar.
Here’s a nice reconnection to the days of yore – and to the future, for the concert cuts are complemented with two previously unreleased songs: the tremulous, sensual “Cold Feet” from 1992 that had no album to end up on after “Armchair Theatre” has become Jeff’s only solo effort of self-penned material, and 2010’s “Out Of Luck” discarding usual baroque-pop in favor of a catchy rockabilly crunch. The inclusion of these, however magical they are, in absence of the rest of live material feels strange, but that only goes to show who’s to be the last to turn off the light.