Jeff Lynne’s ELO, August 15, 2018: Shows I’ll Never Forget

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At Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois: Reminiscing, daydreaming, celebrating: the audience ran the full gamut of emotions and actions during a recent stop by Jeff Lynne’s ELO in Rosemont, IL. Playing to a sold-out crowd at the Allstate Arena on August 15, 2018, Lynne demonstrated what makes Electric Light Orchestra special, namely combining various genres to render the music timeless. In 2018, his unique blends of classical and rock elements sound just as fresh as they did in the 1970s.

Lynne may not be the most charismatic performer, but his impressive presence was established even before the concert started. Songs by Tom Petty, George Harrison, the Beatles (specifically the “Threetles” reunion in honor of the Anthology documentary), and more artists played throughout the arena, reminding the audience of his significant influence on modern music.

When Jeff Lynne took the stage after over 40 years away from touring the States, he evoked a rapturous greeting. He set the scene with the haunting and dramatic “Out of the Rain,” crying out “I’m doing my best / But what does it get?” What he received were cheers, particularly as he segued into the classic rock staple “Evil Woman.” Lynne’s voice remains largely undimmed, and his current touring band accurately recreated the iconic piano solo and signature guitar riffs.

A pleasant surprise was the inclusion of “All Over the World,” particularly since Lynne and ELO resisted even mentioning their Xanadu contributions for many years. Audience members of a certain age immediately recognized the track and danced, reveling in the instant nostalgia.

While the setlist leaned heavily on the hits, Jeff Lynne included some poignant moments from lesser-known tracks, most notably “When I Was a Boy” from 2015’s album Alone in the Universe. Clearly an autobiographical track, the song featured Lynne’s story of his childhood dreams.

Behind him, screens showed animation panning from a typical home to outer space, representing Jeff Lynne’s longing to leave his modest beginnings behind and surrender to the “music [that] played inside my head.” Beatles-esque elements of sweeping strings illustrate the band’s ongoing influence on his compositions, but Lynne’s earnest vocals evoked his own pure emotion.

Lasers swirled around the audience as the group performed “Telephone Line,” prompting the audience to add lighting effects of their own the 2018 way: holding up cell phones. While he enthusiastically delivered the fun, uptempo rockers like “Turn to Stone” and “Don’t Bring Me Down,” it was the fantastical “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” that transported fans to another place, its beautiful chord changes and Lynne’s lilting voice proving that ELO’s music has aged remarkably well.

Nothing on the radio today sounds like “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” or “Living Thing,” with the songs sounding as if they could have been recorded today, despite being products of the 1970s.

Another emotional moment came when Jeff Lynne saluted his “other band”: the Traveling Wilburys. Images of Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Tom Petty flashed behind him as he played “Handle with Care.” While the others were sorely missed, Lynne’s tribute exuded honesty and affection. Not surprisingly, the audience responded accordingly.

As the concert drew to a close, Jeff Lynne and ELO performed one encore: “Roll Over Beethoven,” their elaborate cover of the Chuck Berry standard. The band’s second single, “Roll Over Beethoven” announced ELO’s unique sound and determination to blend two seemingly incompatible elements: orchestral music and straightforward rock. As Lynne gleefully tore into a guitar solo, it became evident that his roots remain in classic rock ’n roll, as he both celebrates its legacy and inserts his own twist on the sound.

Indeed, Jeff Lynne’s performance established his place in rock history, as someone who dared to blend various genres into an intelligent mixture of poignant lyrics, dramatic strings, and a rocking beat. During this Chicago-area stop, Lynne enabled fans to both celebrate their own youth and appreciate ELO’s timeless qualities.

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at
Kit O'Toole
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