Album Review Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Wembley Or Bust

Live albums can be a little hit or miss.  I guess this is because part of the thrill of a show is being there; listening to a recording in your living room is never going to recreate that atmosphere.

There are however, some great live albums:  the live versions on Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same”, far exceed the staid studio recordings; the excellent “Live at the Harlem Square Club” by Sam Cooke is a fascinating document of a master performer; the electrifying “Live and Dangerous” by Thin Lizzy slaps you in the face; and “Running On Empty” by Jackson Browne is probably the most perfect document of an artist on tour ever (especially the surround sound version).

However, other live albums appear to be a case of simply fulfilling contractual obligations, or cashing in on an artist’s popularity (“David Live” and “Stage” by Bowie for instance), or being the only recordings available after an artist’s death (Jeff Buckley, Joy Division).  They are not always released with quality as a selling point and are often for the die hard fans only.

Last year Jeff Lynne started the ‘Alone in the Universe’ Tour and wrapped it up with a show at Wembley in June.  This release documents the triumphant end to that tour and is available in a number of formats: music only vinyl, MP3 and CD, or the full movie on DVD and Blu ray.

If you like your artists to recreate all their hits, just like the original recordings, then you are in for a treat.  After a long hiatus, Jeff Lynne has returned to his ELO project as if no time had elapsed since he suggested that this tour would never happen.  The live versions on the album are almost identical to the albums he recorded decades ago.

The set list reads like a greatest hits album, with a nod to The Travelling Wilburys, The Move and the recent ELO non-hit ‘When I Was a Boy’.  Everything is played immaculately and Jeff’s voice is outstanding throughout.  I have read criticisms that the band lack any chemistry, as it is for all intents and purposes a session band backing Jeff, but as I have only heard the album I can simply testify that they sound like the best backing band you could want.  The only other issue that has angered fans is the way the songs have been edited, with each song’s applause being faded out in stead of flowing into the next track.  I agree, it seems unnatural particularly if you are watching/listening to the whole show in one go.  Maybe this is with the Spotify audience in mind, or the shuffler.  A casual listener or passing fan, probably would not even notice this detail.

The set is one great song after another, taken from ELO’s golden period and the focal point (Jeff’s voice) sounds as stunning as ever.  You could close your eyes and believe you were listening to the original version.  The arrangements have not been altered either and the instrumentation is recreated almost note for note: the handclaps on ‘Shine A Little Love’, a tiny detail on the original version, is there; the phone sound effects on ‘Telephone Line’ are kept in; the vocoder on ‘Mr Blue Sky’; the operatic voice on ‘Rockaria’ – nothing is left out.

The Beatles stopped touring when they started producing records that they knew could never be played live:  ELO became the band The Beatles could have been in the 1970’s and made even more complex and demanding records.  Obviously technology has moved on a lot since 1966 and restrictions of playing live is less of an issue.  This concert shows that there is nothing that can’t be done live that was originally created in a studio.

Jeff has managed to recreate every note, every nuance, every emotion, with almost clinical perfection.  He is not a wild man so there are no heroics or histrionics, just a professional performance.  Jeff is our local hero though, he is our wild West Midlands hero and it is great to have him performing these songs live again.

Just as this collection is released, it has been confirmed that Jeff will be back on tour in 2018, so look out for those dates as well.

1. Standin’ in the Rain

2. Evil Woman

3. All Over the World

4. Showdown

5. Livin’ Thing

6. Do Ya

7. When I Was a Boy

8. Handle with Care

9. Last Train to London

10. Xanadu

11. Rockaria!

12. Can’t Get It Out of My Head

1. 10538 Overture

2. Twilight

3. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle

4. Shine a Little Love

5. Wild West Hero

6. Sweet Talkin’ Woman

7. Telephone Line

8. Turn to Stone

9. Don’t Bring Me Down

10. Mr. Blue Sky

11. Roll Over Beethoven


Reviewer: Alan Neilson

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