The ELO Experience Review – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

the elo experience
Image source: leigh-on-sea.com

Show: The ELO Experience
Venue: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Date: 18th February 2022
Time: 19:30
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes incl. interval
Musicians: Andy Louis (lead vocals), Pete Smith (bass guitar, vocals), Chris Marsh (keyboard, special effects, vocoder), Jan Christiansen (lead guitar, vocals), Tony Lawson (drums), Liz Stacey (violin), Francesca McDonald (cello) & Rachel Hoffman (cello)

The ELO Experience truly is an experience! The atmosphere was bouncing at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre with throwback 70s joy and nostalgia. Whether or not you remember the 70s (or maybe ‘lived through’ might be more appropriate wording), you will definitely have a blast seeing The Electric Light Orchestra Experience! Given that you enjoy even only one or two ELO songs, you will leave the show on a groovy high.

Initial Thoughts

Well, let’s just say, the front man looked like Jeff Lynne… to an extent. The hair, the glasses, it worked! The moment the band walked on stage smiles crossed the faces of the audience and cheers of anticipation erupted. It was exciting to watch the musicians get ready with their instruments – being a guitar player myself I was naturally interested in the selection on the stage and I noticed Christiansen’s (the lead guitarist) electric was signed! I couldn’t make out who’s signature it was, but it was a cool addition to an already pretty cool group of, what we were about to find out, extremely talented people! While the rest of the band weren’t particularly look-a-likes of the original band members, the magic was in the music.

Music

Firstly, the instrumentation was fantastic! I mean, shut your eyes and you’re listening to the real Electric Light Orchestra live. It really was that good. The band perfomed all the bests – All Over The World, Dairy of Horace Wimp, Don’t Bring Me Down, Evil Woman, Confusion, Livin’ Thing and more all before the interval!

Andy Louis was brilliant. His tone is gorgeous; he had Lynne’s vocal control nuances down with absolute ease. He just seemed to breathe and he became his idol. I am not saying the vocals were exactly Jeff Lynne the whole time, but oh my goodness, they are definitely the closest you will ever hear.

Personally, I couldn’t take my eyes off Pete Smith for too long – there was something really endearing about him and how he performed. He was at the front, on a par with Louis, but he was just rocking in his own zone and soaking up the energy of the audience with a permanent sweet smile on his face throughout the whole show!

Chris Marsh might just be the most important but least visible man on stage. His keyboard playing is surely second-to-none, and without the special effects – electronic sound effects, vocal alterations, etc- the band wouldn’t have that signature Electric Light Orchestra touch. What Christiansen lacked in showy stage charisma, he absolutely made up for in skill. He smashed the guitar solos out the theatre!

Tony Lawson’s ear for detail, hitting every specific recognisable beat was fantastic. The string ensemble took the overall sound of The ELO Experience to another level! There is something so stunning about the combination of modern and classical instruments – ELO obviously knew this – and to experience it live was a treat. Liz Stacey stole the show several times. Her talent with the violin is exquisite! Played with style and ease and absolutely pitch perfect, she elevated every song with those well-known ELO string riffs. Her partners in crime, McDonald and Hoffan, are equally as skilled and watching them play and share a laugh together througout made the evening even more enjoyable.

The ELO Experience Visuals

I wouldn’t call it a light show, but The ELO Experience had a projector, dry ice and mulitcoloured lighting which together created the spacey, electronic vibe of the overall production. The audience really came alive when they played Diary of Horace Wimp! This song had a lego figure animated video accompaniment which was audibly a hit! Several of the songs featured video footage, I would say mostly for comedic effect, except for thje olympic achievement montage which was actually quite emotional since it came after Louis’s dedication of the hit song Wild West Hero to those no longer with us and those who save lives.

My favourite aspect of The ELO Experience, as cringey as this may sound, was the looks of genuine happiness between Andy Louis and Pete Smith. It is clear the band are friends. Their funny little synchronised swaying and moments of shared laughter were quite endearing. Even the cellists were spinning their cellos and dancing along! It makes a difference when you can see the musicians are having a blast; it radiates off the stage out to the audience and allows you to relax and fully enjoy the experience.

Andy Loius’ humour was the exact kind my Dad would laugh out loud at… and he did! The audience loved it, especially the joke about their number of Facebook followers – I wont spoil it for you, my guess is it will come up again at their other shows! Glow sticks were availble to buy at the merch stand manned by the lead singer’s sons, which only added to the band’s appeal, seeming to have a close-knit, family feel about them. These made an appearance after the interval and were a great addition to the show, allowing the audience to feel a part of the performance.

Encore

Spoiler alert! But once the band had said goodnight without having played the most popular ELO tune, it wasn’t too big of a surprise that they would come back out and please the begging crowd! Mr Blue Sky was spectacular. Down to every electronic vocal note and guitar riff it was perfect.

Summary

If you are an Electric Light Orchestra fan, or a 70s music fan in general, The ELO Experience will not disappoint! The atmosphere only grew more exuberant as the night went on. Expect top-notch musicianship, fun characterisation and the full essence of the ELO sound!

Notes

Target Audience: ELO fans
Content: No Content Likely To Offend
Recommendation?: Yes

Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding

You can find more information about The ELO Experience on their website!