Playing songs that are almost all around four decades old, 2016 is somehow ELO’s year. Mastermind Jeff Lynne’s current incarnation of the Electric Light Orchestra will follow Lionel Richie and Dolly Parton to play the Sunday afternoon “legends” slot at Glastonbury.
Four nights at the O2 this week is some transformation after years in which the only person who seemed to like them was Alan Partridge. Like Take That, with whom Lynne has recently recorded, a low-key reemergence in 2013 was followed by a massive outpouring of public goodwill. An excellent new album, ELO’s first since 2001, has bolstered their reputation still further.
Punk may have been more exciting in the late Seventies, but listening to the songs performed by an impeccable 13-strong band, six of whom joined together on harmonies like audible sunbeams, it was hard to find flaws. Lynne was a perfunctory frontman who left awkward silences between songs, incapable of asking London if it was having a good time. Yet his singing voice was full of warmth and unharmed by age, perhaps because it hasn’t had much use since the mid-Eighties.
Melody piled upon melody during upbeat stomps such as Turn to Stone and Don’t Bring Me Down, as well as the slow swoon Telephone Line and a nostalgic new one, When I Was a Boy. He only forced two new songs on the audience, seemingly content that his old ones are newly appreciated. More than that, they’re adored.