FOLLOWING their sell-out tour two years ago, Jeff Lynne has been performing live again this autumn and this last week returned to the Leeds Arena. It is no surprise therefore that the Arena was completely full to capacity when the band performed hits from the ELO repertoire. In the 70s and early 80s the band had 28 hit singles, over half of which were top ten hits, plus 15 albums including two which reached number one and a further six that were in the top ten of the album charts.

Prior to Jeff and his band taking the stage we were treated to half an hour of hit songs from Billy Lockett, a new singer from Northampton Then, after a very short break Jeff and his band took to the stage and regaled us with Standing in the Rain, Evil Woman, All Over The World, Showdown and Do Ya.

A big fan of the Beatles, Jeff’s music draws heavily on their influence, no more so than in his 2016 hit single, When I Was A Boy, from the album Alone in the Universe, which was very reminiscent of the Beatle’s Free As A Bird, which he produced in 1994 along with the late George Harrison. It’s descending piano line, the floating minor seventh in the chorus, the solid, heavy drumming all made it sound as if one was listening to the Fab Four.

Living Thing followed and then Handle with Care after which it was back to the late 70s for Rockaria After that it was all 70s and 80s hits – Last Train to London, 10538 Overture, Shine A Little Love, Wild West Hero, Sweet Talking Woman, Telephone Line, Don’t Bring Me Down and Turn To Stone.

To finish the show, they had reserved the best until last, a perfect rendition of Mr Blue Sky which if they were not already on their feet by this time had all the rest of the audience up there and clapping along. A five-minute standing ovation guaranteed that the band would return to the stage which they did with Roll Over Beethoven.

I thought the band were excellent. As well as two keyboard players, Lead, Bass and Rhythm Guitarists there was a string trio, which came in handy for those signature, elaborate orchestrations which songs like Sweet Talkin’ Woman and Living Thing just wouldn’t be the same without. Particularly impressive was Rosie Langley’s violin playing. Likewise, Jeff’s backing singers were superb, particularly Melanie Lewis-McDonald in Rockaria with her soaring soprano voice and Ian Hornal in Don’t Bring Me Down. Also, keeping everything so tight with his drumming and percussion was Donavan Hepburn who has also played with Take That, Gary Barlow and Olly Murs. Finally, I cannot close without mentioning both Marcus Byrne and Mike Stevens. Marcus was superb on piano and synthesiser and Mike, guitarist, vocalist and musical director for this tour (and previously the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert and the Take That tours), has drawn on all his previous experience to make this a fantastic event.

A great night for the public who had travelled from all over West & North Yorkshire. Who said Rock and Roll is dead!

by John Burland