Cheltenham Town Hall

Cheltenham Town Hall
Review by Simon Lewis, Gloucestershire Echo

Fri 8th Jan 2016

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The 1970s: a decade which spawned some of the greatest bands in history, including Birmingham’s own Electric Light Orchestra, a symphonic force majeure whose unique fusion of driving rock and classical strings earned them a special niche in the minds of music connoisseurs. Tonight, 26 of their most memorable songs lived again, thanks to a stellar display by The ELO Experience, indeed with the proverbial eyes shut, it was hard to tell them from the original class act.

Headed by Jeff Lynne look- and sound-alike Andy Louis, the eight virtuoso musicians regally entertained the partisan audience over two enthralling hours, faithfully recreating that distinctive ELO sound. From the foot-tapping opener All Over The World, the momentum never let up during a high-octane performance of their biggest hits, augmented by spectacular back projections straight out of NASA’s Hubble telescope images archive. Even the amusing Lego animation chronicling The Diary of Horace Wimp finished in outer space, while dancing chimps prompted many more chuckles during Rock And Roll Is King.

Blue, of course, is a dominant colour in the ELO universe, and, not surprisingly, much of the concert was suffused with rich shades of sapphire and aquamarine light, complemented by a forest of blue glowsticks sold to, sorry, acquired by the audience during the interval and waved fervently throughout the second half. Glitzy Liz Stacey threatened to set the strings of her blue violin on fire, especially during an electrifying rendition of Roll Over Beethoven, with even dear old Ludwig himself putting in an appearance on the giant screen. The haunting Midnight Blue was a calm and sweet water oasis amongst many personal favourites, including Turn To Stone, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, the thrilling Across The Border and the precision a cappella vocals of the wistful Wild West Hero, all from the legendary Out of the Blue album.

As the night grew older and everybody was as one, the operatic pastiche Rockaria! re-echoed gloriously around the auditorium, before Don’t Bring Me Down and the immortal Mr. Blue Sky brought to a pulsating climax an evening that could have had us reeling and rocking at the town hall until the break of light. The people in the audience were on their feet to join in song, and I thought I saw the mayor there, but I wasn’t really sure. But it was alright. Actually, it was more than alright. It was magnificent, a dazzling reminder of the phenomenon that was (and still is) the Electric Light Orchestra, and in the words of Living Thing – like magic.

Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis, Gloucestershire Echo