(Jim Irvin’s article from Mojo magazine, August 2001 issue–reprinted from Beat Patrol)
April 20, 2001. The fat drops of rain falling on New York cannot dampen the anticipation that’s crackling along this usually quiet side-street. Here stand the few hundred lucky souls selected to witness the first show in 15 years by their favourite band. Soon they’ll be ushered into a makeshift TV studio and seated inches from a skinny man with a cloud of chestnut-coloured hair, a trim beard and wraparound shades that hide his baggy eyes. He’ll caress an electric guitar and sing songs that rocked their young lives.
Pray silence, please, for the Electric Light Orchestra!
Mayhem. You could hold a nice barbecue with the warmth of this response.
Staring at his feet, Jeff Lynne strolls on, plugs in, strums something. His body language ripples through a few emotions: Oh no, I can’t hear the guitar! Those people are a bit close! But they’re bloody pleased to see me!
He senses it’ll be okay, looks up and says hello.
For two hours we’re treated to the works of a master. It’s impossible not to grin like a fool at ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, ‘Evil Woman’, all of them. But, seated in the heart of this diverse, adoring crowd, I reflect on how I once despised this music. When ELO were at their artistic and commercial peak, right at the height of punk, I considered them artless, sexless, pointlessly extravagant – on stage and in their arrangements – their words meaningless, their melodies appropriated from greater pop minds. Ersatz and processed, the sonic equivalent of Dairylea cheese. Gloop for the masses.
What a horrible snob I was. Of course, the dream of punk as a great proletarian force was cobblers. The real ‘70s Music Of The People was being made by disco acts and bands like ELO, a noble music that’s uplifting and unpretentious. You don’t have to decode it or hitch a lifestyle to it. It’s music made with pleasure, for pleasure; a rare commodity we should treasure. Here’s how it happened…