There was something extra behind Jeff Lynne’s frequent bows and smiles for the crowd at Little Caesar’s Arena Thursday night. Lynne is in the midst of his first US tour in a staggering 37 years and was full of youthful amazement at the response his catalogue was receiving. It was a crowd hungrily awaiting the chance to hear this music direct from the source and a man who was just as eager to give to them.
Lynne and his stellar 12 piece band, including three string players and three keyboard players, launched into a 90 minute set largely comprised of Electric Light Orchestra’s greatest hits. Although accentuated by an impressive lighting display and five video screens this was a show where the music did the vast majority of the heavy lifting. These layered songs were re-created entirely live, fascinating when considering that ELO was one of the first acts to incorporate the now common practice of backing tracks. Lynne sang live as well and was remarkable for his age – only noticeably leaning on the help of his backing vocalists for “Don’t Bring Me Down.” Where many of his contemporaries at an advanced age tend to rely on their bands for any lead work, Lynne had several impressive guitar turns.
There were climatic sing a longs in “Evil Woman,” “Telephone Line” and “Mr. Blue Sky,” impressive showcases of musicianship on “Turn To Stone,” “Sweet Talkin Woman,” and “Shine A Little Love” as well as a newer Lynne song – “When I Was A Boy.” Somewhat surprisingly the group also played The Traveling Wilburys “Handle With Care,” an added bonus made bittersweet by the fact that Lynne and Bob Dylan are the only members still alive.
Lynne is known as a studio rat who dislikes live performance. He certainly has enough money and success where going out on the road is not a necessity. But it appears as though Lynne is re-discovering the very special and unique validation of a job well done that only live performance can give. While not a gregarious and talkative frontman, the fact that he was moved to be so joyous and appreciative Thursday night is evidence that Lynne is getting more out of playing live now than ever.
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