Jeff Lynne’s ELO Live in Hyde Park & Mr. Blue Sky, Blu-ray (2015)

Cast: Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra, The Beatles, Roy Orbison, others
Director: Janet Fraser Crook
Studio: Universal/ Eagle Vision [9/11/15]
Video: 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English PCM stereo
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, German
Program: 1) All Over The World 2) Evil Woman 3) Ma-Ma-Ma Belle 4) Showdown 5) Livin’ Thing 6) Strange Magic 7) 10538 Overture 8) Can’t Get It Out Of My Head 9) Sweet Talkin’ Woman 10) Turn To Stone 11) Steppin’ Out 12) Handle With Care 13) Don’t Bring Me Down 14) Rock ’n Roll Is King 15) Telephone Line 16) Mr. Blue Sky
No Zone coding
Extras: Feature-length documentary on Jeff Lynne – Mr. Blue Sky, Lynne interview
Length: 167 min. total
Rating: *****

ELO was the last big live rock extravaganza I attended years ago, so I was interested in reviewing this one. I hadn’t expected to get a double feature, with the main extra being a lengthy (too lengthy for my interest) documentary on Lynne himself. I should just say, bearing in mind the emphasis on surround sound in their live concerts and earlier albums, I was a bit surprised that this Blu-ray just had ordinary PC stereo – though it is very good.

Hadn’t realize how important a figure in rock Lynne really was, especially during the ‘70s and ‘80s. He was an iconic songwriter and producer and had global sales of his albums of over 50 million. He was referred to by some rock writers as the successor to the Beatles, and had a rather similar sound, though completely identifiable as his very own. He is proponent of using various rooms for their natural acoustic sound, rather than depending on studio gimmicks to beef up the original dry studio sonics. He produced many albums other than the ELO and was a huge fan of Roy Orbison. He even pinched-hit for John Lennon in some recordings with the three remaining Beatles – on one track using an old cassette of Lennon singing the tune. The group was known as The Traveling Wilburys. His early days with the groups The Idle Race and The Move are commented on, with Eric Idle opining that he much preferred the name The Idle Race to ELO.

In September of 2014 BBC Radio 2 had a festival in London which featured Jeff and the ELO accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra – not just a simple string section. The 50,000 live concert tickets sold out in minutes and this is the excellent Blu-ray video of the event. Jeff and the rest of the group do 16 of his hits, ending with “Mr. Blue Sky,” which is also the title of the documentary. The projections include the familiar ELO flying saucer and many other images appropriate to the tunes. The shots concentrate mainly on Lynne doing his thing, the hard-working string section, the back-up vocalists, the crowd, and a cute violinist who occasionally appears at the front of the stage playing her part (which is not entirely musical).

—John Henry