With Wembley or Bust — the new concert film and live album from Jeff Lynne’s ELO filmed June 24, 2017 during the group’s Sold Out show in England’s famed Wembley Stadium — Jeff Lynne has found a very big way to celebrate his enduring and ongoing musical legacy.
“I was a little worried about this show,” Jeff Lynne says with characteristic humility. “But our fans are the best, because they not only showed up, they sang along with all their hearts. I will never forget standing onstage, looking at that audience and hearing the sound of 60,000 of them singing my tunes — and sounding great, I might add.”
Asked what he considers to be the highlights of Wembley or Bust — directed by Paul Dugdale — Jeff Lynne laughs and says, “All of it was a highlight. Looking at Wembley Or Bust now, the show actually got even better because now I can see the people in the audience up close. I was actually shocked at how much the fans in the crowd seemed to love it all, the expressions on their faces. Watching the crowd all sing along with us, you can almost lip-read their joy. I mean the audience busted into those choruses louder than us — and we had 190,800 watts on our side.”
The “we” Lynne is referring to is the current lineup of Jeff Lynne’s ELO, a remarkable ensemble including Musical Director Mike Stevens that in recent years has helped make Lynne’s ambitious rock & roll dreams come true onstage. “Thanks to all 13 of the musicians in the band — and our crew — I feel like we can do what was once impossible with ease,” says Lynne. “I’ve got so much faith and trust in Mike and the whole band, I can actually enjoy playing live for people. And now all the equipment is ten times better, from the sound to the spaceship. And for all the fans out there who waited a long time for this, I feel like we’re finally able to give them all the kind of show they deserve.”
For Wembley Or Bust, it wasn’t just the crowd that was big. Jeff Lynne’s ELO also performed the group’s most extensive set list yet. The result is one of the greatest rock & roll spectacles of all time: two hours of great songs created by Jeff Lynne. The songs performed here include everything from vintage ELO classics like “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Livin’ Thing” and “Evil Woman” to “Do Ya” — which dates back to Lynne’s days with The Move — “Handle With Care” which he recorded with the Traveling Wilburys, right through “When I Was A Boy” from his latest masterpiece, Alone In The Universe. “I love it,” says Jeff Lynne. “This might be my favorite gig ever, so it’s a very good one to get to share.”
So 2017 has found Jeff Lynne becoming something that surprises even him — a road warrior touring the world, and discovering that his legendary songbook is very much a livin’ thing on stages all over the world.
“Just a couple of years ago, I did not think this was possible,” Jeff Lynne explains. “When we played BBC2’s Hyde Park Festival in 2014, something truly astonishing happened — it was a moment I will never forget.” Jeff and the band played a rapturously received set to 50,000 fans of all ages. “That felt like I was breaking through a barrier,” Lynne remembers. “I had been away from performing for so long, I thought there’s no way I can fill up that space. Then we did. And really ever since, wherever we go, it’s always full up.”
In 2017, Electric Light Orchestra — the band Jeff Lynne has led since it was first launched into the musical stratosphere back in 1972 – was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In his loving induction speech, Dhani Harrison — the son of Jeff’s close friend and collaborator George Harrison — lovingly described Lynne as the “ELO extraterrestrial wizard captain — the man with it all.” It was a remarkable night that saw Jeff Lynne and his band celebrating not just ELO, but also opening the entire Rock Hall ceremony by honoring the recently passed Chuck Berry with an inspired version of “Roll Over Beethoven.”
Just weeks after that auspicious occasion, “Mr. Blue Sky” — perhaps Lynne’s most timeless composition and his unofficial theme song — was once again launched into orbit for movie audiences everywhere when this beloved classic was featured in the international box-office smash, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Jeff Lynne remains the man with it all — constantly reaching new heights.
For nearly half a century now, the musical genius of Jeff Lynne has been striking a resounding chord with fans all over world. One of the most successful recording artists, singer-songwriters and producers in all rock history, Jeff Lynne has achieved remarkable success with ELO, as a solo artist, as one of the Traveling Wilburys, and producing many of the most significant artists of our times. That impressive list includes some of Lynne’s own defining musical heroes like Roy Orbison, Del Shannon and, in an amazing and Fabulous turn of events, even The Beatles themselves, as well as solo recordings by Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, Joe Walsh, Regina Spektor, Joe Cocker and Bryan Adams, among others.
Jeff Lynne’s record stands unparalleled. Electric Light Orchestra has sold over 50 million records worldwide, and continues to have a remarkably popular catalog. Between 1972 and 1986, Lynne wrote and produced twenty-six Top 40 hits in the United Kingdom, and twenty Top 40 hits in the United States, including twenty Top 20 smashes in the UK and fifteen Top 20 smashes in the U.S. Even more remarkably, the ELO catalog continues to have tremendous impact, as demonstrated powerfully when the compilation All Over The World: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra was released in 2005 and became a Top 10 album in many international markets including the U.K. where it sold over a million copies.
Beyond all the best-known hit songs, fans everywhere continue to explore the extraordinary series of albums that combined Lynne’s remarkably ambitious and accomplished craftsmanship from the group’s 1971 debut accidentally titled
No Answer due to a miscommunication on a telephone about what the album would be called through 1973’s ELO II and
On The Third Day, 1974’s breakthrough Eldorado, 1975’s
Face The Music, 1976’s A New World Record, 1977’s double-record epic Out Of The Blue, 1979’s Discovery, 1981’s Time, 1983’s Secret Messages, 1986’s Balance of Power, as well as 2001’s Zoom, the first new Electric Light Orchestra studio album in 15 years. Most recently, in late 2015, came Alone In the Universe, the thirteenth album, and the first credited to Jeff Lynne’s ELO. The album was met with wildly positive reviews, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart in America, and reaching #4 on the UK Albums Chart on its way to going Platinum.
So what is it about the music of Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra that endures so powerfully for millions of music lovers around the world? “It’s a great question and I wish I could answer it,” Jeff Lynne says with a warm laugh. “It’s nice to have songs in your catalog that stand the test of time.”
And now there’s an excellent new addition to that catalog: Wembley or Bust — the sight and sound of a Jeff Lynne and his great band standing the test of time in a big and beautiful way.