Almost every single seat in the Xcel Energy Center was filled Thursday night while the Electric Light Orchestra’s iconic spaceship hovered on screens above the stage, the audience awaiting the British rock band that’s been rolling since the ’70s. The crowd rose from their seats to applaud the shadows gliding on stage, accompanied by a grand string instrumental and epic strobe lights. Cosmic backdrops swirled like we were all floating in space with singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne and his interstellar team leading the way.
Jeff Lynne’s ELO hasn’t put out a new album since 2015, and it was nearly 15 years between the release of Alone in the Universe and 2001’s Zoom. Until recent years, it had been even longer since they toured regularly, since the mid-’80s. Back then, their shows hypnotized listeners with their Beatles-esque medleys, selling out tickets and eventually helping to get the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.
Lynne formed Electric Light Orchestra in 1970 as a band that would take the rock genre in a new direction with orchestral instruments and influences from classical music and 1950s rock. Without any other original members, Jeff Lynne’s ELO has evolved to a solid, lucky 13-member assembly that includes bassist Lee Pomeroy, who decided to sport Minnesota pride Thursday night by wearing a black Prince T-shirt under a muted purple suit.
Lynne brought back the songs of ghosts past and played songs like “Do Ya,” by his 1960s band, the Move. For “Handle With Care,” by his 1980s supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys — which also included Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and George Harrison — Lynne asked opener Dhani Harrison, son of George, to come back onstage to help sing the hopeful song.
ELO’s timeless songs were still able to render the audience paralyzed in awe — not wanting to move, but just to soak it all in. However, the band got the crowd jumping and swaying with songs like A New World Record’s “Livin’ Thing,” with its epic violin solo by Jessie Murphy, and “Rockaria!” with backing vocalist Melanie Lewis-McDonald’s enchanting operatic voice. In Lynne’s words, “It’s like magic.” Before those tunes, feelings of wistful nostalgia rippled through the air as they sang ELO’s first single, “10538 Overture.” Vintage pictures and videos of the band played on the screen, bordered by the No Answer record cover art.
It was “Turn to Stone,” the opening track to their double album Out of the Blue, that brought the entirety of the arena to their feet. The band concluded the night with a bright blue sky backdrop with tumbling clouds for their famous song, “Mr. Blue Sky,” which was featured in the international hit movie Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Fans cheered all the members back to the stage, and Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” punctuated by strains of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, was played as the encore.
As what seems to be the edgy younger brother to Jeff Lynne’s ELO, multi-instrumentalist/composer/singer Dhani Harrison opened the show with his songs’ big build-ups and eerie vibes. They included “Never Know” from his most recent album, 2017’s IN///PARALLEL, and songs from his band, thenewno2, like “Make It Home,” off of their thefearofmissingout album, and “Yomp,” from You Are Here.
Jeff Lynne’s ELO set list: Standin’ in the Rain; Evil Woman; All Over the World; Showdown; Do Ya; When I Was a Boy; Livin’ Thing; Handle With Care; Rockaria!; Last Train to London; Eldorado Overture/Can’t Get It Out of My Head; 10538 Overture; Shine a Little Love; Wild West Hero; Sweet Talkin’ Woman; Telephone Line; Don’t Bring Me Down; Turn to Stone; Mr. Blue Sky; Roll Over Beethoven.