TVD Live Shots: Jeff Lynne’s ELO at Wembley Stadium, 6/24

Jeff Lynne’s ELO and a sold out Wembley Stadium—are you kidding me? This one had all the makings to be one of the most epic shows on the planet, and it delivered. I’ve seen hundreds of shows in my life and several stadium shows, but I can tell you that this was one for the ages. The handful of rock bands who can even attempt to play stadiums cannot hold a candle to the magic that is Jeff Lynne and his expert band of musicians.

2017 is shaping up to be an epic year for Jeff Lynne. Earlier this year ELO was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017, and now a string of sold out stadium and arena tours of the UK. What’s in store for the rest of the year? Many fans are hoping it’s a US tour announcement.

This show was my first time in a proper stadium (capacity here is 90,000). Walking through the halls as I was heading to my seat, I got a sense of just how much history had taken place in Wembley. From Live Aid back in 1985 to just a few weeks ago with the triumphant return of The Stone Roses who also packed the venue to capacity, to the upcoming four-night run from Adele, this place has—and continues to host—some of the biggest shows on earth.

ELO hit the stage and opened appropriately with “Standing in the Rain” as the clouds above the stadium had just finished spitting on the crowd. Next up was “Evil Woman” which got the crowd going completely bonkers, right into “All Over the World” which turned the entire stadium into a dance party.

Other highlights included a stellar version of the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care” (featuring a brilliant Roy Orbison style vocalist chiming in on the bridge), the band’s only number one UK hit “Xanadu,” and of course my all time favorite ELO song “Living Thing.” I would argue that these songs sound better live than they do on any of the records.

It was also great to hear Lynne’s latest release make the set as “When I was a Boy” from 2015’s Alone in the Universe fit right in with the classics. But surprisingly missing was anything from 2001’s Zoom release. Watching this show I just kept thinking to myself, “how many hits does this guy have?” The answer is—enough to fill an entire set. There were fans next to me trying to time their bathroom breaks to a song that wasn’t their favorite, but it never happened.

Opening the show was one of my all-time favorite singers, Tom Chaplin (the voice of Keane). This guy made one of the most remarkable records I’ve heard in years with the release of The Wave earlier this year. I tell you, every song this guy touches turns to gold. Maybe not in the case of sales and chart numbers, but I’ve seen him three times this year and there hasn’t been a bad song in any of the sets. In fact, he’s unearthed a gem or two from Keane that makes me celebrate their back catalog even more.

Chaplin is known for opening up to the audience with a personal anecdote or two during his headlining sets, but there was no time for that during this opening slot. “I’m going to keep from talking and just play as many songs as I can.” Adding briefly to that, “thank you for having me, and thank you for letting me wear this jacket,” jokingly referring to the part of his wardrobe that looks like it was stolen from the set of Solid Gold in the ’70s. (Turns out as Chaplin said in a Tweet, “it’s intended for the lady wearer…my wife found it”).

But, back to his debut solo record. It’s truly one of the more gorgeous sounding records I’ve ever heard and easily my pick for best record of 2017. What will it take for the rest of the world to discover this one? Hell if I know, but for starters I would release “Better Way” and “The River” as the next two singles and push the hell out of them. These are the two best songs on the record (after “Quicksand”) but seem to be a bit lost in the mix. “Better Way” isn’t even on the regular edition of the record which is baffling to me.

If you purchase one record this year, it should be The Wave—from start to finish it’s an absolute masterpiece. I could see this guy perform live 100 more times this year and never get tired of it. If you watch his social presence, it’s quite entertaining as well. Chaplin has hundreds of adoring fans advocating for him, but the next step is harnessing and amplifying that times 1,000.

Also, it’s fun to see the banter back and forth during Tom Chaplin shows between he and Keane drummer Richard Hughes. He’s been at every show that I’ve been to, so he looks to be a fan of the new material as well. Although he could also be taking notes from the current beast of a drummer who looks like he’s murdering his drum kit with every hit, yet still so precise. Hughes, of course, is a stellar drummer in his own right.

TOM CHAPLIN

Bottom line: Jeff Lynne’s ELO sounded better live than any band I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It was almost too perfect. Tom Chaplin’s short but sweet opening set made me fall in love with The Wave all over again.

Check out hi-res shots from the show in the gallery here.

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