It seems like the main goal that they were striving to achieve when making this concert was to maintain the classic aesthetic and style of the band while expanding upon the visual and musical experience. The Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO as they’re more commonly known, is something of a juggernaut of classic hits. Even the most casual music fan is likely to know a few of their tunes. This is one of ELO’s headlining performances during BBC Radio 2’s “Festival in a Day” in London’s Hyde Park.Early in the set Jeff Lynne himself mentions that it has been quite a while, almost 30 years in fact, since he’s played on a festival stage in front of such a large crowd. He’s been on a hiatus from touring so that he can focus on recording and producing, which seems to be where his passion lies. There are times when the sheer size of the crowd seems to intimidate Jeff a bit. But on a whole you can tell that both he and the rest of the band are genuinely having a good time up there.
Normally ELO is comprised of the usual Rock band instruments (guitar, bass, drums, and keys,) plus a violin and cello. But with this show they’ve taken it to the next level by adding a full orchestra that sits behind the band on stage. Even though they still use Vocoders and other 70’s style vocal effects, the live orchestra gives a modern feel to such classic hits as, “Living Thing”, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, and “Strange Magic”. The stage is arranged in an Orchestral format. Where most Rock concert stages are usually shaped like a square or rectangle, they employ the use of the semicircle shape which seems to create a wider projection of sound towards the audience. As opposed to the square shape that projects more of a straight line down the crowd.
It’s not really the kind of live concert Blu-ray that you sit down and watch. It’s the kind of thing that you put on and enjoy in the background and occasionally glance at from time to time. Aside from a solo violinist that occasionally takes center stage, there isn’t a tremendous amount of activity going on, as Jeff is more of a laid back performer. But the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd more than makes up for it. It’s pretty clear that these songs have been the soundtrack for many people’s lives for quite some time now. The guitars and vocals in particular have a rich and defined tone. There are instances where you can actually pick out the individual background singers which is somewhat rare with live home video. Considering the the vast number of musicians playing on stage it’s quite impressive that they’re able to maintain such a clear mix. You’re actually able to hear every musician even when they’re playing simultaneously. Take the song “Mama bell” for instance, which is more of a hard rocking/bluesy type of song where everyone is pretty much playing at full volume. This could’ve easily turned into mush. But in addition to the great sound mix, they tend to use the orchestra sparingly so as to avoid musical collisions. Which I’m sure can be attributed to the legendary producing skills of Jeff Lynne himself.
The Bonus Features include an interview with Jeff about his return to the stage and behind the scenes details of some of his biggest hits. There is also an in depth documentary that follows the life and career of Jeff Lynne from his early days before ELO, all the way up to the present. It details his collaborations with such musical legends as Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and George Harrison. They describe his musical contributions as both producer and songwriter on many of their most famous songs. It’s truly fascinating to hear them speak of his accomplishments. You can tell that each of them have a profound respect and admiration for his work. The name Jeff Lynne is rarely brought up when referring to pop music history. But after watching this short film I can definitely say that I have a new found respect for him and his music.
If you have a strong connection to ELO and their music then you’ll appreciate the crystal clear audio, elaborate stage lights and screens, and the engaging documentary that shows us a piece of pop music history that many people might not be aware of. Myself being more of a casual ELO fan, I can definitely say that this is well worth adding to your classic rock collection.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080i High Definition.Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Clarity/Detail: It might be a combination of the stage lights and the video screen in the background, but the overall image is somewhat grainy. It also seems like the stage lights weren’t well coordinated with the cameras as there are instances where the lights shine into the lens and cause distortion.
Depth: The shots from the cameras on stage give very good depth and you’re able to see each member and all of their gear quite clearly. Although when the cameras pull back over the crowd the quality becomes diminished.
Black Levels: Rich and clear black tones.
Color Reproduction: Colors are bright and vibrant. But like I said, the lighting rigs have a tendency to make things a bit blurry from time to time. But it doesn’t take you out of the experience.
Flesh Tones: The grainy quality somewhat blurs and distorts the the flesh tones from time to time.
Noise/Artifacts: Again, some blurring with the lights but nothing too destructive to keep you from enjoying it.
Audio Format(s): LPCM Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, and German. (Bonus Features Only)
Dynamics: Very good dynamics considering the amount of players on stage. Though there is very little low end. But I think that is mostly a stylistic choice for ELO in general.
Low Frequency Extension: Outside of the Cellos hitting a few low notes from time to time they don’t really take advantage of the LFE.
Surround Sound Presentation: N/A
Dialogue Reproduction: The articulation of the lyrics is quite crisp. Especially considering that Jeff doesn’t have the most powerful vocal projection and there are several back up singers.
Interview with Jeff Lynne.
Mr Blue Sky – The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable concert coupled with a fascinating and in some cases profound documentary. If you’re new to ELO I might actually suggest that you watch the documentary BEFORE you watch the concert. It definitely gave me a stronger appreciation for Jeff Lynne’s work and the impact it’s had on both his peers and the generations of musicians after him. That’s not to say that the concert isn’t as good without the it. Because it definitely holds up on it’s own. But for me I know that it would’ve given me a stronger appreciation for the music if I’d started with the documentary.