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Concert Reviews:
Jeff Lynne's ELO shines a little love at Little Caesars Arena

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Friday, August 17, 2018

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DETROIT -- Thirty-seven years away can create high expectations and even a little bit of mythology.

But Jeff Lynne's ELO made those years melt away on Thursday night, Aug. 16, at Little Caesars Arena and, for the most part, lived up to a reputation built on pristine recordings and a series of earworm-saturated hits, all delivered so faithfully to their original versions that it almost felt like listening to a jukebox -- or an online playlist.

Lynne and company haven't been around these parts since 1981, back when it was known as the Electric Light Orchestra. Much has happened since -- including the dissolution of ELO and Lynne's emergence as an award-winning producer (the Beatles, individually and collectively, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and more) and a member of the all-star Traveling Wilburys. But Lynne reembraced his ELO heritage with 2015's "Alone in the Universe" and has returned the group to the road, albeit in a limited fashion; the Detroit is just one of 10 cities the troupe is playing this year.

And there's no doubt it was special. Lynne did commit one inexcusable gap -- not mentioning Aretha Franklin's passing at all on the day she died, in her hometown, bad form for someone with his sense of music heritage and who's lost three of his Wilburys bandmates over the years. (Opener Dawes did name-check her in "If I Wanted Someone" during its well-received and generous 50 minute set.) But otherwise Lynne and his 12-piece ELO shimmered during its 90-minute, 19-song show, which went light on production (five LED video panels and lasers deployed during just a few songs) and let the music be the night's "Sweet Talkin' Woman" as it ran through a hit parade of enduring favorites from four-plus decades ago.

It started early, too; After starting with the 1977 deep cut "Standin' in the Rain," ELO charged through buoyant takes of "Evil Woman" and the Motown-flavored "All Over the World." The sun-glassed, sports-coated Lynne beamed and gave thumbs-up as he dubbed the Little Caesars crowd "lovely" and noted that "it's about time" ELO returned to the Detroit area. And the group, fortified by three string and three keyboard players, gave the songs a bit of extra oomph not found on the studio recordings; "Can't Get It Out of My Head" and "Telephone Line" in particular felt more lush and rich in is Spectorian Wall of Sound arrangement.

Other highlights included the Wilburys' "Handle With Care," which included video footage of the band (and a huge ovation when the late George Harrison appeared on the screens), a buoyant "Shine a Little Love" and a hard-rocking "10538 Overture." Lynne dipped deep a couple of other times, for "Wild West Hero" and the Merseyesque "When I Was a Boy," but the crowd was there for the hits, and a finishing bomber's run of "Don't Bring Me Down," "Turn To Stone" and "Mr. Blue Sky" served them well, while the group finally stretched out a bit on the cranked up "Roll Over Beethoven" encore.

As ELO left the stage, Lynne made no promises about coming back before another 37 years go by -- or ever, for that matter. But Thursday's show did make the group a "Livin' Thing" again, flesh-and-blood rather than some unseen, historical reference point in pop music annals.

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