Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) In Pittsburgh, Thursday evening, Aug 1 with Jeff Lynn and surprise (to me) Dahni Harrison Band opener (yes, George’s son). ELO started in England in 1970 by songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jeff Lynn. Their music has from the beginning been Beatlesque rock interfused with classical arrangements and a monster light show. Through its recording and touring career, ELO sold over 50 million records worldwide and collected 19 CRIA, 21 RIAA, and 38 BPI awards. ELO was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. They are an authentic supergroup.
They played Thursday night, August 1 here in Pittsburgh and I went out of my way to get good seats through StubHub. A fact of life. If you want regular ticket price, you get regular seats a half mile from the stage. You get what you pay for and I did. I did notice that there were a few seats open in the front rows for US$1600. A little rich for my blood.
Normally, I pay little attention to “opening acts” as most are local and not very good. However, this time I didn’t want to get stuck in a parking dilemma so I arrived pretty early. Hordes of people were descending on the PPG Paints arena, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins- 20,000 seats. At some point in the concert they turned the house lights on for the musicians and every single seat was filled. The acoustics in the arena were world class.
As we were seated, I started picking up on the opening band. I didn’t know who they were but I was increasingly impressed with every number. They played different instruments, electronic keyboards and they were really, really good. World class musicians. The lead singer came up focused on huge TV screens we could see easily and I didn’t recognize him. I checked my phone to see if I could find the band and it turns out it was the “Dhani Harrison” Band. Yes, that Harrison. Jeff had chosen him to open for the entire twenty city tour, of which Pittsburgh was the last. It was an excellent start.
I first saw ELO in the opening year of MTV which would have been 1981. The MTV concert began with a huge flying saucer on stage, pulled up slowly by cables revealing the band that started their set with the saucer hanging over them. This time, there was no saucer, the show started with a huge light show complete with multiple modalities and lasers. It was just about the right number of decibels. Loud enough to push out anything else in your soul but not to do serious hearing damage. Loudness is important to Rock.
That said, there’s something really existential about a real “live” concert as opposed to listening to a record or something off a portable device. I’ve had the dumb luck to play rock music with a great band in front of hundreds of people in venues like “The House of Blues” around the country. I could see what was happening in the crowd from my vantage on the stage and this was the microscopic minor leagues. If you are the proper connection, the vibration of the music from a 20,000-seat auditorium simply fills your soul to the brim. The music grabs you so tightly there is no competition from anything else.
ELO blew the audience away when they hit:
“In this life I’ve seen everything I can see, woman
I’ve seen lovers flying through the air hand in hand
I’ve seen babies dancing in the midnight sun…….”
BUT I…I….I….I NEVER SEEN NOTHING LIKE YOU!”
at full volume with blinding multicolored lights. The aisles were full of dancing people, many my age. The old guy to my right was in tears. Everything from our youths in the 70s came back in a flood. Unclear how that connection was made but it was absolutely there.
“Twilight” blew me away:
“Twilight, I only meant to stay awhile
Twilight, I gave you time to steal my mind
Away from me”.
At this point, old memories previously forgotten rushed back into me.
Then Jeff introduced his acolyte Dhani Harrison to do a duet of the first song the Travelling Wilburys sang as a group. “Handle With Care”, written in 1988 by George Harrison with specific intent for Roy Orbison to sing a specific section. As the song was being fleshed out in the acoustics of Bob Dylan’s garage, it had no title. Harrison looked around and noticed a label “Handle With Care” on a shelf box and that’s what he named it. The song “Handle With Care” is beautiful and meaningful music.
“I’m so tired of being lonely
I still have some love to give
Won’t you show me that you really care?”
“I’ve been uptight and made a mess
But I’ll clean it up myself, I guess
Oh, the sweet smell of success
Handle me with care”
This music has intense meaning to a lot of people. A lot of people. When Dhani came out and ELO began this song, I was immediately in tears. Again, no one has explained the emotional connection but it is intense. I think I can die now. I’ve heard ELO and Dhani Harrison speak to me.
And so it goes, the entire concert was an intense emotional experience, and accordingly, I have provided for you some of the intensity in the form of YouTube clips that will show you some of it. First is the original Wilburys singing “Handle With Care” back in 1990-I think. Since then Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison have passed, leaving Jeff Lynn and Bob Dylan. I think one of the most musically beautiful songs that can be sung by humans. After than, I found a clip of Jeff Lynn and Dhani Harrison reprising the song from this year’s concert. It spoke to me.
After that, I have given you some classic ELO songs that you should all hear and I hope you will as a favor to me. First is “Roll over Beethoven” from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2017, tribute to Chuck Berry, featuring ELOs magnificent string section. Then “Twilight” and “Do Ya” (The song that made the Pittsburgh crowd absolutely delirious, including my wife who cares nothing about any of this-slapping her knee), both masterpieces of performance art. Please give them a look. You can’t possibly be disappointed.
“Handle With Care” (Travelling Wilburys)
“Handle With Care” (ELO with Dhani Harrison)
“Roll over Beethoven” (ELO)
“Do Ya” (ELO)