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Review of The ELO Experience at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton


Tribute groups and performers can be dangerous territory. For every quality one, you could fill the rest of your fingers and toes with those that, let’s say, are not of such quality. Therefore trepidation is always likely to be lurking when seeing any for the first time and to take on the Electric Light Orchestra could be considered an even riskier challenge.

During the seventies and into the eighties, Birmingham formed group the Electric Light Orchestra created through their distinctive style some of the most familiar hybrids of rock, pop and orchestral songs to this day. So for any tribute band to attempt to create such a well loved and unique group could be considered a challenge. Over the past seven years, the ELO Experience has made it their challenge. However with the rousing and superb opener of All Over The World the scene was set for a pristine and quality evening.

Andy Louis in the role of Jeff Lynne (all dark glasses and hair) as lead vocal and rhythm guitar is an immediate and dynamic presence on stage. Providing exceptional vocal similarity to Lynne, as well as being a wonderfully witty, charismatic character. His repartee with the rest of the group is fun and he has a confident air with the audience as well. The rest of the group is of equally impressive quality from Jan Christiansen and Pete Smith on lead and bass guitar respectively and amusingly willing to join in with Louis’ guitar showdown antics. Tony Lawson on drums and percussion is excellent, while Steve Hemsley is superb on keyboard and as Louis comments he has “a voice of an angel”. A wonderful departure also from the familiar all male line-up of ELO are the ladies of the strings. Viv Blackledge and Clare Little provide via their cello’s that wonderful ELO distinct sound. While latest recruit Liz Stacey is a revelation on violin.

The standard band layout on stage is complimented with a cleverly used projection screen providing a cute Lego animation during The Diary Of Horace Wimp, crowd pleasing comedy during Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King and inspirational footage during Hold On Tight. The lighting is also used well throughout, giving a stadium air to proceedings.

The set performed covered the majority of ELO’s most famous songs and all were of an exceptional quality. Among the best were Telephone Line which was superbly done complete with that key telephone sound, as well as the first half closing Livin’ Thing. Last Train To London also had a lovely audience pleasing addition. Many other familiar songs were covered including the classics Confusion, Evil Woman and Turn To Stone and of course Mr Blue Sky. Also the slightly less familiar Standin’ In The Rain and Summer Lightning were performed.

As with any show like this the crowd interaction is key and while it’s clear that other than a few pockets of activity; one gentleman in a box was dancing nearly the whole of the show; the Northampton crowd were a little reserved in the first half. However at the behest for audience participation in the second half from Louis, and clutching their glowsticks. The audience very much came alive in the second half. So much so that there was dancing from a select few in the aisles and a couple near the front were doing a full jive during Roll Over Beethoven. By the end song, every was up on their feet clapping, dancing and glowstick waving.

The whole evening was an absolute pleasure and I am almost certain that if ever the legend that is Jeff Lynne were to see The ELO Experience perform, I think he would be pleased to see his superb legacy living on in such well loved, well performed way. It is certain that the crowd of Northampton were ecstatic from their response. This is a tribute group of an overwhelming quality. Quite simply a must see.

[rating:5/5]



Performance reviewed: Saturday 6th September at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton. 

The ELO Experience performed at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate) on Saturday 6th September and are currently touring until Wednesday 3rd December. Full details can be found on their website here: http://www.elotribute.com/

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