Since being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, the Birmingham band Electric Light Orchestra has toured steadily for the first time in over 30 years.
Rebranded as Jeff Lynne’s ELO for the 2015 album Alone in the Universe, the current iteration of the band features only Lynne from the original lineup. But when they perform at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, you’ll hear the band’s many Top 40 hits from the ’70s, and perhaps some choice album cuts like “Standin’ in the Rain” and “Tightrope.”
ELO began in 1971 as an offshoot of the Move, one of the biggest U.K. bands of the late ’60s to never replicate its popularity in America. The Move’s only Jeff Lynne-penned single, “Do Ya,” was also its only Hot 100 hit, foreshadowing Lynne’s transatlantic success with ELO (who would eventually make “Do Ya” an even bigger hit with a 1976 re-recording). The Move frontman Roy Wood came up with both the name the Electric Light Orchestra and the concept of a rock combo with classical instrumentation, playing cello on early songs like “Look at Me Now.” ELO’s self-titled first album was a modest success, released in the U.S. under the title No Answer due to a label miscommunication. By the time the band’s second album was finished, Wood had left the group, and Lynne remained as ELO’s primary creative force.
ELO’s lush orchestrations and bubblegum melodies made them one of the most adaptable and versatile groups of the classic rock era. Other great bands embarrassed themselves with disco-influenced singles, but spiraling strings and pulsing grooves came naturally to Electric Light Orchestra, who released some of their best and most acclaimed music on disco era albums like 1977’s Out of the Blue and 1979’s Discovery.
Electric Light Orchestra disbanded after 1986’s Balance of Power, with Lynne going on to produce hits for Tom Petty and George Harrison and form the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. But soon, the rise of sampling kept the band’s catalog alive for a new generation—WhoSampled.com named ELO one of the 10 most sampled rock artists in the history of hip-hop. Producers who went digging in the crates found endless dramatic string arrangements on ELO records to turn into head-nodding loops. A particularly bombastic section of the Face the Music deep cut “Fire on High” has been especially popular with rappers, appearing on tracks by El-P, Joe Budden, Inspectah Deck, and Canibus, while “Tightrope” has been sampled by Jeezy and Ab-Soul. And the end of the 1976 track “So Fine” was looped into an iconic riff for L.A. Style’s 1991 rave classic “James Brown Is Dead.”
Jeff Lynne's ELO
With: Dhani Harrison
Where: Xcel Energy Center
When: 8 p.m Thursday, July 25
Tickets: $66.50 and up; more info here