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Jeff Lynne’s ELO At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, August 21st, 2018, Reviewed

rock nyc writer Robert Nevin dubbed Jeff Lynne “Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Honorable Mention and runner-up emeritus”. Musician Kevin Perri was even more succinct:  “Sounds great, super boring”. Power pop god Herb Eimerman claimed “maybe the best show i’ve ever seen….killer close seats and the sound was great….mind blown…!!!….”.

Last night at Madison Square Garden, with a full on dyed brown  beard and the remnants of Lynne’s  afro making it seem like any The Move and post Move time rather than the most recent incarnation of the 70 year old pop legends career, he less dropped the years and more facsimiled them, and I don’t mind at all. . Looking at pictures circa “Flowers In The Rain,” and a little later, say 1972, when they all followed Roy Wood’s lead and became hairy, psychedelic, glam boys ala Marc Bolan, Jeff looks the same, and sounds the same, and if you listen to The Moves Shazam, before Jeff was even in the band, draws from a similar well. For all the symphonic Gregg Lake tude,  Jeff is a power pop guy. He is like an early incarnation of Nick Lowe without the country affectation or Kanye West without the funk, a magpie drawing effortlessly on everything, sucking it all up. “When You Walk In The Room,” “Ready Teddy,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”  and a slew of Chuck Berry, and a vast array of the Beatles and especially Paul McCartney, all filtered and rewritten and segueing into something else entirely. Who came first? ELO or Steely Dan? You know the answer.

The audience? The audience were as old as I am, older, they were constantly a cheeseburger away from a massive coronary, I had a nosebleed seat but I am somewhat fit, I swear I thought half the men were gonna collapse on the way . It wore me out watching them and when opening act, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith,  called them beautiful it felt like an inside joke. Oh, yes, Dawes. They performed for fifty minutes and were terrible, Taylor. a face pulling parody of a guitarist, the songs,  astoundingly tuneless, and in the entire set they performed one song so great, the last one, it seemed like the luckiest masterpiece anyone has ever heard.

Jeff went on at 918pm (why so late -none of us are getting any younger, mate?) and the set was just superb. While Kevin is right, and it was a bore, and the performance were mostly very precise incarnations of ELO’s recorded version, the sound was enrichening and the arrangements gorgeous, in “Rockaria” the aria was well sung, in the Travelling Wilbury’s song, the Roy Orbison vocal perfect, and in the more raucous moments, the Marvin Gaye inspired in the verses “Showdown,” they broke a sweat without breaking a sweat.

I mentioned Kanye West earlier and really rap is very similar to Jeff Lynne’s method of operation. Similar to the way Kanye West on, say, “Bound 2” where Kanye samples “Bound” by Ponderosa Twins Plus One and the “Uh-huh, honey” from Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s,” Lynne’s  “Rockaria!” echoes Wagner and Little Richard. Odder, and sweeter, is that when you hear Brian Wilson on “All Around The World” you hear Jeff hearing Brian and later producing Brian Wilson, the masterpiece debut .

Jeff is one of those guys, like Denny Laine though a little later on, who took off from the Beatles and the British explosion and because he was a student of Britpop was also a producer of Britpop and because he was a producer who was also a student, could get the best out of people like Paul McCartney (Flaming Pie) and take them where they are going. On stage, it is not that Jeff is lazy, or even distracted, it is that he is so into the sound he is oblivious to his surroundings, and a wry mention that it was almost 40 years to the day since ELO first performed at MSG, didn’t change that.

So no revelations… well, maybe one, “Do Ya” was better than I remembered (also where Joe and Mick got their lick for “Clash City Rockers”). And sure it was pure pop for then people, that doesn’t necessarily mean  it was being phoned it. During the first third, Jeff went from “Livin’ Thing” to “Rockaria!” to “Handle With Care,” power pop to prog rock to folk, and all of it sounded like Jeff. Though for me the highlight was a song worth worshipping “Telephone Line” -one of the great heartbreakers. It all made sense of the opening “Standin’ In The Rain,” and of how “Eleanor Rigby'”s sweeping sorrow became the backbone of Lynne’s vision.

Grade: B+



  1. Richard E. Ignelzi on August 22, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    I just left the Wednesday show at MSG and I thought it was awesome. I only wished they played Strange Magic. And by the way, the opening act Dawes was very good.

  2. Richard Stoeger on August 23, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Hearing ELO’s music played live has been a “bucket list” moment for decades. A year ago, I was able to get tickets to a concert by The Orchestra. Tickets were modestly priced (under $70) for center-orchestra in the first three rows in a beautiful sounding venue on the campus of CW Post in Westbury Long Island. The warm up bands included Al Stewart and Orleans. But the hit of the night was The Orchestra featuring members of ELO and ELO II although without Jeff Lynne.

    A year later, I am in the nose-bleed seats of Madison Square Garden for tickets that cost about the same price listening to Jeff Lynne’s ELO. So which concert was better?

    Jeff Lynne’s concert at the Garden included all the things that a small venue concert will not. Great lighting effects, large video screens behind the band, and big sound. But there were production elements that surprised me. To begin with, the five floor to ceiling video walls that were segmented by lighting arrays, were programmed to only show meaningless video backdrops. ELO album cover artwork, sky scenes, outer space asteroids moving about. With at least a dozen cameras covering the musicians, it was most disappointing that these vast displays were not used to enlarge the performers which in an arena the size of MSG, makes it difficult to really see the artists from even the luxury boxes (we were not in them but would have been disappointed had we paid that much).

    Then there is the live performance video which if anyone associated with the show chose to watch in its entirety, would note that it’s one-camera shot at-a-time composition was not only jumpy, but shot from camera angles that did little justice to the musician the camera was focused on. Don’t let me bring you down but the lighting on Jeff Lynne with top-down and perhaps from slightly behind left his face shadowed by his own forehead and sunglasses. He looked like a person who had a flashlight shoved up under his chin. The keyboard players were shot from below and string section and vocalists were jumped to and fro that made watching the lack-luster jumbo-trons bothersome. The only part of the show that was overly lit was the audience. And here I can imagine several expensive seats that I would have had a hard time enduring through the many “let’s light up the audience” moments. Even U2 concerts at the garden show greater restraint. Luckily, as we were off to the side, we were spared the blinding light.

    As for the sound system, it is hard to make The Garden sound great but the engineers made it work. ELO sounded amazing. Friends we were with loved the concert more than that of The Orchestra although the set list was very similar. But for me, the show while a “bucket list” moment, lacked something. As impressive as the light show was, is that really what gets me going some 30 years later in life? Did the videography make the most of the technology deployed. And for all the strange magic that Jeff Lynne provides, his enthusiasm to touring was regrettably missing. When it came time to introduce the band, he deferred the task to his “musical director”. He sang on all songs but backed away from the microphone often enough to take a breather.

    Yes, had I paid multiples more for tickets up close, I might have a different perspective on this live musical performance. After all, my acoustical perspective was from the rafter seats, where the musicians were minuscule and were the closeup video shots were chunky, haphazard, ill-lighted, and suffered from poor camera positions. Where the audio was mixed through massive mono speaker arrays and where the most dramatic elements of the show were the flooding of the audience, the garden actually, with a well orchestrated lighting exhibit which had I been high, might have rendered a different review.

    But at this time in my life, live music takes on different take-aways. For one, if I can sit closer to the musicians and hear their pure vocals and instrumentation, then I can more enjoy the music before it gets mixed and amplified. I can better appreciate the craftsmanship of the artist in their performance. I am more one with the performance. There are many things that Jeff and his ELO can do to improve this show and I hope that someone might be listening. His music and performance capability is too great to simply squander away an opportunity that technically is already setup (video walls, cameras and lighting) to not have his producers and engineers find a better way to deliver what to him is less a love of performing but more a love of sharing his music.

    That said, the next time I want to drench myself in ELO’s amazing discography, I will go and find really great seats for The Orchestra. Musically, they are more ELO like than Jeff Lynne’s latest performance at The Garden. That said, if you can afford front and center seating, I would say go for it. If you can get seats like I did for a fairer price, you won’t be disappointed. But if you want to see ELO in your face and don’t give a rat’s ass about the light show or sharing the experience with thousands, then find yourself great seats for The Orchestra and let me know what you thought.

    • admin on August 23, 2018 at 11:20 am

      Thanks, that was very interesting and I am going to post it on the website. Unfortunately, we don’t pay our contributors, however if you should want to write more for us please email your article to

      • Beth on August 23, 2018 at 12:08 pm

        Sat close up and had the time of my life! Nastalgic , sounded amazing, so thrilled to have finally seen them .

  3. Ken on August 23, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    This review doesn’t reference any of the historical facts that lead to ELO in their manifest creation. Jeff Lynne was inspired by the Beatles use of orchestration and subsequently turned the ELO sound that way. He also.Fused with Roy wood and tied into Woods pop background that would ignite it stronger as Lynne had it himself I would also point out that Lynne’sexpertise is so renown that if you look at the people that have used him as a recording producer and engineer people like the Beatles Tom Petty and Joe Walsh Roy Orbison George Harrison would lend itself to the fact that he is a musical genius Last nights show was in a word awesome every detail of every song was incorporated and not left out and although you can you can somewhat conclude that it was contrived it was exactly with the audience was looking for and ELO and Lynne delivered

    • Louis Davis on August 24, 2018 at 2:14 am

      Well said Ken. The very best concert of my life. Long live Jeff Lynne’s ELO… Jeff Lynne is a Music God!

  4. Louis Davis on August 24, 2018 at 2:15 am

    Best concert of my life! Long live Jeff Lynne’s ELO!

  5. Will Bernard on August 25, 2018 at 1:17 am

    Jeff Lynne’s ELO New York Concert was the very best of my life ( And i have seen over 200 concerts so far…) Let’s enjoy his greatness while he is still alive….Jeff Lynne is the most talented Music God ever. He will be 71 in 2018 and his voice is Gold. All his live concerts sound as good if not better than the original recordings…Not many bands and musicians can match that. Just have a listen from Jeff Lynne’s ELO at Wembley Stadium June 24 2017

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