Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Orchestra (former members of ELO & ELO Part II)

#69: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! A number of folks have asked me about my thoughts on the recent gig by The Orchestra [former members of ELO & ELO Part II] at The Robin 2, the new 2CD compilation "Anthology" and the current UK tour. Today I'm bearing my soul regarding the current UK tour.
Yours Truly KJS believes that there is a kind of snobbery abounding in ELO circles regarding ELO Part II and The Orchestra. An example of this is the abandonment of said bands by Face The Music to effectively be a Sony BMG news outlet when in the 1990's it did a marvellous job in supporting the ELO Part II bandwagon (and the work of related artistes).
Let's make one thing clear. Right now you are, at the time of writing, unlikely to ever see a Jeff Lynne-led ELO vehicle (a la "Zoom") perform ELO's music live - especially in the UK and Europe. There are also long odds on (a) any new Jeff Lynne album breaching the Top 30 album charts or (b) a tour promoting a new Jeff Lynne album or (c) any substantial rendition of the ELO back catalogue. My point is that despite there being one or three decent ELO tribute bands about, the most likely chance of getting to see the music of ELO performed live in a professional and genuine manner is at a gig by The Orchestra. They DO sound good and they DO sound like the real deal.
If it weren't for either ELO Part II or The Orchestra, I doubt that we would have retained anything like the interest and momentum that ELO still have (including all those remastered packages and rolling compilations) a full 23 years after ELO's last studio album. Bev BevanKelly GroucuttMik KaminskiLouis Clark, Eric Troyer, Phil Bates, Pete Haycock, Neil Lockwood, Gordon Townsend, Parthenon Huxley and Glen Burtnik - in and of themselves have kept the light shining in their world traversing tours. They are either under-reported in the press or misreported generally as ELO. But they keep doing it with the light on.
All we have seen from Jeff Lynne in the meantime is "Zoom", a solo album in 2001 in all but name and perhaps better titled "Armchair Theatre Part II". Yes, Jeff owns the name and wrote 99% of the original music but that means, whether you or he likes it or not, that any Orchestra gig is really a tribute to his musical prowess and talent anyway. I've read and heard a few negative statements about the post-ELO bands. But bearing in mind that there is more of a chance that Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson will appear together in Las Vegas next week with Lord Lucan in a new musical - than us ever seeing ELO (as we knew it up to 1986) c/w Jeff Lynne again, The Orchestra are doing us all a service and, if we are really truly ELO fans, then we should support them. Period.
There are, however, other reasons for the relatively low crowds on the current tour. There is nothing wrong with the band, their performances or set list. The problems are (a) the abject apathy of ELO fans, (b) the choice of venues, (c) the number of venues, (d) the extent of promotion, (e) the effects of the (so called) 'credit crunch', (f) a second UK tour in the same calendar year and (g) the tragic loss of Kelly Groucutt and the perception of the band in his wake. In other words there are a lot of factors. I fear that this could be the final tour. I hope I'm wrong. It's time for folks to get behind this band and for the band themselves to celebrate their own songwriting legacy too.
On a personal note, I can tell you that Yours Truly KJS wouldn't have continued with my current ELO enthusiasm for the last twenty plus years if it weren't for ELO Part Two. And if Christian Evans hadn't have been wearing an ELO Part II tour sweatshirt from the 1991 MSO tour in a certain pub in Wolverhampton back in 1992, we would not have met and become such good gig buddies. I would not be the person I am now with the acquaintances that I've met with like minded musical interests. Life turns on such events. Nearly every person that knows me (from school days to nowadays) still say: "I thought of you" either when they hear an ELO song on the radio or TV.
Yes, I am an ELOnorak. We all have such a lot to be thankful for. The only way that I can express that gratitude is to support The Orchestra via ELO Beatles Forever (ELOBF), by word of mouth, when/if they are on tour or if/when they release another album.

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 22-Oct-2009

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