Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Live in Hyde Park (2015)

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Electric Light Orchestra fans rejoiced in September 2014 when Jeff Lynne took the stage at BBC Radio 2’s “Festival in a Day” event. As the sun set over London’s Hyde Park, Lynne treated fans to a show packed with ELO hits, accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

What resulted was an almost flawless performance, thus the new DVD and Blu-ray Jeff Lynne’s ELO Live in Hyde Park is a must-own for any ELO and Lynne enthusiast.

Joined by original ELO member Richard Tandy, Jeff Lynne immediately captures the 50,000 crowd with an enthusiastic rendition of “All Over the World.” The inclusion of the Xanadu track shows Lynne has finally made peace with the songs he contributed to the 1980 movie bomb. While critics may have torn the film apart, the soundtrack has lived on as a pristine example of 1980s pop.

Frequent shots of the audience show them singing along to every word of “Living Thing,” which showcases Lynne’s still strong vocals. At first, Lynne announces he feels nervous — after all, it was the first time the band played on a festival stage in 30 years — but he displays nothing but confidence as he hits the high notes in “Evil Woman” or sings over the Beatlesque strings of “Can’t Get It Out of My Head.”

Jeff Lynne even treats fans to early hits such as ELO’s first single (and one of his earliest compositions) “10538 Overture,” which illustrates how his orchestral leanings increased as the 1970s progressed. Indeed, the live strings add majesty to “Steppin’ Out,” Lynne’s epic tale of independence and restarting one’s life. The concert consists of fun moments as well, with Lynne, Tandy and the band turning in energetic versions of “Turn to Stone” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” that keeps the crowd on its feet. The new group perfectly replicates the complex original recordings live, with “Telephone Line” retaining its intricate harmonies. Jeff Lynne even nods to Traveling Wilbury fans with “Handle with Care,” with images of George Harrison and Roy Orbison flickering on the big screen behind the band.

By the time Lynne, ELO and the BBC Concert Orchestra conclude with “Mr. Blue Sky,” one can appreciate how these songs have withstood the test of time. Combining rock, pop, and classical elements, Jeff Lynne created sophisticated tracks featuring irresistibly catchy hooks. His near-perfect performance at the “Festival in a Day” concert demonstrates his meticulous attention to detail, his voice sounding just as it did during the Electric Light Orchestra’s 1970s peak. Casual and longtime fans will enjoy revisiting — and reconsidering — these classics on Jeff Lynne’s ELO Live in Hyde Park.

Bonus material includes a new interview with Jeff Lynne and the documentary Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne & ELO. While the documentary is overly long and excessively reiterates how Lynne is an unappreciated musical genius, it does reveal Lynne’s songwriting and production techniques. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison, Tom Petty, Joe Walsh, Barbara Orbison (widow of Roy Orbison), and Olivia Harrison (widow of George Harrison) share their experiences working with the musician. Particularly revealing is how Harrison, McCartney, and Starr sometimes struggled with Lynne during the 1994 Anthology sessions, and the challenges Lynne faced in transforming Lennon’s rough demos of “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” into full-fledged songs.

Lynne’s BBC interview — presumably recorded around the time of the “Festival in a Day” event — sheds even more light on his contribution to modern music. When asked how he would describe his sound, he sums up his songs in two words: “classical pop.”

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