DVD Review: Jeff Lynne's ELO - Live In Hyde Park

Jeff Lynne brings back ELO in a triumphant 2014 performance.
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In the early 1970s, Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood and Bev Bevan took the remnants of The Move and formed the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). Originally a side project intending to merge classical with rock and continue where The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus" left off, it quickly became the main focus for the trio. Wood soon lost interest and, as you cannot have two captains on the same ship, decided to leave to form Wizzard. ELO became Lynne's baby and ended up becoming one of the most successful bands in the world, selling more than 50 million albums worldwide.

Since disbanding ELO in the 1980s, Lynne has become something of a recluse, at least in terms of touring, focusing more on production work. He released a covers album, Long Wave in 2012, but that was his first since 1990 unless one counts his ELO record, Zoom (which was really a Lynne solo album anyhow) and his other most recent work was an album featuring rerecordings of his own songs. Suffice to say, fans of Lynne's music have often had a long, frustrating wait and fans of his live performances had mostly given up hope. Then, in 2014, Lynne, along with Richard Tandy, a crack band and the BBC Concert Orchestra headlined BBC 2's "Festival In A Day" at Hyde Park in front of 55,000 people. The show was filmed and makes up the new DVD, Jeff Lynne's ELO - Live In Hyde Park.

The show opens with "All Over The World," From Xanadu. The massive crowd is all in from the opening notes, singing along to every word. The stage show is spectacular, boasting a massive screen with effects that almost seem real and an incredible light show. Lynne is in fine voice here and throughout.

A spot-on rendition of "Evil Woman" follows. Tandy plays the song's signature piano solo, appearing to have lost none of his chops to the passage of time. The band is tight enough that it's almost unnoticeable when Lynne seemingly forgets the words at one point, repeatedly looking down at his teleprompter.

While the show is certainly hits laden, Lynne doesn't completely ignore his earlier material, giving spirited renditions of the hard rock of "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" and the power pop of "10538 Overture." The former dispels any notion that this is purely a pop band with its heavy power chords and an army of cellos chugging away while the latter could serve as a blueprint for Cheap Trick.

The orchestra is really prominent on "Showdown," which includes a trippy light show and visual effects that make it look like it was raining on stage. Lynne gives a fine guitar solo on this number. Lynne switches to acoustic for the Beatlesque pop of "Livin' Thing." Violinist Chereene Allen steps to the forefront on this, one of several songs she is featured on. The band gives a spirited reading of "Turn To Stone," the joy on their faces evident from all the smiles present.

Lynne pays tribute to his fallen former Traveling Wilburys band mates Roy Orbison and George Harrison with a heartfelt "Handle With Care." While it is unusual to hear only one lead vocalist on the track, it is a nice tribute with images from the song's video playing behind the band on stage. The DVD closes with a strong performance of "Mr. Blue Sky' that finds the band recreating the song's many parts perfectly.

It's worth noting that Lynne is billing this incarnation of the band Jeff Lynne's ELO. That's a fair assessment as only Richard Tandy remains from the band's classic years. Still, the musicians and singers assembled, and there are many needed to reproduce the group's complex songs, are top notch. U.S. versions of the DVD do not contain "Roll Over Beethoven," apparently for publishing reasons.

The video is presented in 16:9 widescreen and looks great. Audio options include Dolby Digital Stereo. The show is well filmed and well mixed. Bonus features include an interview with Lynne as well as the excellent documentary Mr. Blue Sky: The Story Of Jeff Lynne & ELO, which documents his career from the early days of the Idle Race to present.

Concerts from Jeff Lynne, whether on his own or with ELO, are almost nonexistent. To get a killer performance with a full-blown orchestra and a tight band is truly a gift for fans and this DVD is a must own. Lynne is rumored to be touring for his forthcoming ELO album. One can only hope.