Just a thought… Live shows are fun – sometimes. But you have to practice for months on end. [Jeff Lynne]
Greetings from the road! Since last we were together, we’ve done and seen so much – it’s almost impossible to chronicle it all. So I’ll try to keep it to the things you might find most interesting, and we’ll go from there!
10 days from now, Jeff Lynne’s ELO (Electric Light Orchestra for anyone who wasn’t around in the 70s for their days of mega-hits) will be playing in Toronto. I hope that if you’re a fan, you got tickets, because it was an amazing show. And it’s ELO’s first North American tour in 0ver 30 years.
Quite apart from the $7 US per small bottle of water charged at the Oracle Arena, the experience was like most every other concert. We were 20th row on the floor and I found myself wishing I was closer, but was still grateful even to be there.
After an opening performance by the band Dawes (whose lead singer, I’m told, is dating This is Us star Mandy Moore) 13 performers – including three women on strings and a female singer – took the stage at around 9:15 pm. The show was about 90 minutes of great rock and roll memories. Mr. Lynne himself is somewhat of a shy performer, so there wasn’t a lot of banter or movement on stage from the headliner himself.
We didn’t expect P!NK-style acrobatics, Beyoncé dance moves or a part of the stage extending into the arena. The sold-out crowd, made up mostly of 50+ aged fans like Rob and me, spent the majority of the night on its feet, dancing, singing along and cheering to hits like “Roll Over Beethoven” (the encore), “Telephone Line” and “Turn to Stone”. The only ELO mega-hit the band didn’t perform (that stuck out to us) was “Strange Magic” and I’m guessing that the high range of that song’s vocals was what prevented it from making the lineup.
While Lynne’s not hitting the high notes that he did 40 years ago (few are!) his male backup vocalist filled in a lot of the time. He could have filled in more, in our opinion, but that may come later in the tour. As it was, the band was tight and pitch perfect, and one would never know it was the opening show in the ten-show run. As Lynne pointed out, a lot of work went into preparing for this performance.
Just as we were dismayed by the industrial area setting of Oakland-Alameda County’s baseball home (although delighted to see the Jays reward far flung Canadian fans in Seattle with some wins), the Oracle next door had its shortcomings, too. We got to the home of the back-to-back NBA champ Golden State Warriors two hours before the show, so as to enjoy dinner in a restaurant at the stadium, only to find that we couldn’t enter until one hour before showtime. We scarfed down burgers and fries in a wide open public space and watched in shock as a man paid $32US for a double margarita. Sure hope it was a good one and that his Cuervo Gold had actual gold in it!
Despite a huge crowd on the train platform, we made it onto the first one that came along after the show and 40 minutes later we were back to the free parking lot at the North Berkeley train station. How nice to be rewarded for taking transit! All in all, we were more than satisfied with the ELO experience and are glad the band gave us a reason to build a trip around a concert.
If you’re interested, there’s a great ELO concert DVD out there, as well as a documentary about the band’s founder himself called Mr. Blue Sky. And oh yes, they did that song too – as well as a Traveling Wilburys hit (“Handle With Care”). Here’s the entire set list, if you’re interested. And I’d urge you not to see that DVD before the show: allow yourself to open your musical presents along with thousands of others, rather than knowing what to expect!
Standin’ in the Rain (here’s a YouTube link to a performance of this song in Sheffield, England)
All Over the World
When I Was a Boy (2015)
Handle With Care
Can’t Get It Out of My Head
Shine a Little Love
Wild West Hero
Sweet Talkin’ Woman
Don’t Bring Me Down
Turn to Stone
Mr. Blue Sky
Encore: Roll Over Beethoven
The next day, we checked out of our Holiday Inn in Berkeley, situated in a rather rough area of the town but within walking distance of a charming downtown. We strolled the streets and enjoyed live musicians busking, stepped around and past homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks, and took in the college town vibe of this city that has given the world hot tubs (Jacuzzi), lattes, the computer mouse, flu vaccines and the band Green Day.
We spent the following afternoon in one of the world’s most famous (now defunct) prisons: tomorrow, we’ll take you to the streets of San Francisco and out on its picturesque bay as we head to Alcatraz. Bye for now from the California coast!