ELO AGAIN are back with their stunning 40th anniversary 'Return To The Blue' tour, celebrating the universal music of Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra. Here, band leader Colin Smith shares some the story behind the group’s success.
What made you want to start ELO Again and how did it all begin?
Previously we had a Beatles tribute show and we were looking for a new project; a natural progression was ELO – as John Lennon had quoted, if the Beatles had stayed together that’s how they would have sounded – and so we replaced ourselves in the Beatles with ELO members and recruited new players to perform, and started the process from there.
What should audiences expect from ELO Again?
It’s an amazing audio/visual high energy show, full of all the big hits, great lighting, and screen projections. The screen projections were added into the show approximately two years ago to create another dimension; so the rear of the stage is one big video wall onto which we project videos and images that compliment each song, and it also helps to create a 3D stage set.
What is your favourite song to perform and why, Or your top 5 songs?
‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘Rockaria’, ‘Turn to Stone’, ‘Living Thing’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ would be my top five if I had to choose.
‘Mr Blue Sky’ is my personal favourite as it is basically ELO’s anthem. I love the multi layered harmonies and the crowd are all expecting it and go crazy as soon as the piano intro starts; we save it for the last song of the second set. The other four songs I like because of the feelgood factor they give and they get the crowd up dancing and singing along.
What do you like most about being on tour?
The camaraderie between the performers and playing in different towns and cities each show is great. All the players in the show are high quality musicians or music teachers and the string section have all performed in world class orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. One of our keys players has even worked with, and is a personal friend of, Louis Clarke and Mik Kaminsky from the original ELO.
Tell us five things you couldn’t live without when you’re on the road?
- My mobile phone, because we all need to keep in touch on our group WhatsApp just in case of any issues that may arise and also to check Facebook page for show feedback.
- Tea, as it’s good for the voice – especially with honey and lemon and ginger, or camomile tea; it’s very soothing.
- Wet wipes to take off our make-up after the show. There have been a few occasions when I have ran out and it’s quite embarrassing popping to a motorway service station with my stage make up still on.
- It’s very difficult to get healthy food sometimes after shows and invariably you end up with something and chips – I can’t eat chips without vinegar and so always carry some sachets with me.
- And finally, sleep. This is so important especially with consecutive runs of shows – so it’s nice to have a wind down with the players and crew after the show, but then it’s straight to bed.
If you could do a gig anywhere in the world, where would it be ?
The Hollywood Bowl; I have never been to a show there but have seen it on the TV. The Beatles played there and all the greats too, and Jeff Lynne himself played a show there last year. It just has that ‘I’ve made it’ feel about it. You could also say the same about Wembley – it’s every performer’s dream to say “Hello, Wembley…” or “Hollywood!”.
Do you have a favourite on the road anecdote?
On a recent German tour we had local roadie who could not speak a word of English, and would do the opposite of what you wanted him to do (to everybody’s frustration) and so in one soundcheck our cellist chased him around the stage with the metal rod that protrudes from the bottom of the cello, threatening to stick it somewhere. This has jokingly become known as ‘Spikengate’ because of its potential to provoke a national incident!
What things do you like best when it comes to audience reactions/participation?
We have sections in the show where we get the audience to sing on their own and shine lights from mobile phones; it looks like the room is full of stars. It’s a more updated version of, and has the same effect as, when people used to wave their lighters in the air during shows, which can’t be done nowadays due to health and safety laws.
How do you like to relax after a tour?
I enjoy swimming, cycling, golf, occasional nights at local pub. It’s nice to relax a bit after a tour, however it’s not long before it’s back to the office preparing for the next tour, adding new material and changing things around to keep it all fresh.