Jeff Lynne - guitar, lead vocals; Bev Bevan - drums; Mik Kaminski - violin; Hugh McDowell - cello; Melvyn Gale - cello; Kelly Groucutt - bass, percussion, vocals; Richard Tandy - keyboards, vocals
Date Night 1976: It's Valentine's Day at San Francisco's legendary Winterland Arena and Electric Light Orchestra, with their heavily orchestrated pop-sound, is supplying the soundtrack.
Electric Light Orchestra was at the top of their game when this concert was recorded. The band was right in the middle of a run of Top 10 hits that started in 1973 (with their second LP, ELO II), and continued throughout the rest of the '70s. ELO (which, like ELP and CSN became the band's name when most DJs chose not to spit out their full name), was hawking their fifth studio album in four years, Face The Music.
The album, released in '75, would yield some of their biggest classic hits, including "Fire On High," "Evil Woman," and "Strange Magic." Coming off the ambitious Eldorado LP, featuring the infectious single "Can't Get It Out Of My Head," ELO was a band on fire. By the time this show was recorded, ELO had essentially become a musical vehicle for lead singer, and chief songwriter and producer, Jeff Lynne. The band was initially a side project of three of the four members of the Move, a swingin' London-based 60s British pop band featuring Lynne, drummer Bev Bevan, guitarist/vocalist Roy Wood and bassist Rick Price. ELO's debut album in 1971 came out almost at the same time as the final Move album, Message To The Country. While Roy Wood had started experimenting with cellos, oboes and other classical instruments on the final Move albums (which was the impetus to form ELO), it wasn't until Lynne's radio friendly hits started flowing, that ELO found the right formula: a blending of four-chord rock with lush string arrangements and Beatlesque vocals.
Wood was out of ELO (and the Move officially disbanded) in 1973 after the first LP, which made it clear that Lynne wanted to take the band in a very structured pop direction. Wood later formed the very eclectic (and British sounding) Wizzard and found his own success on the UK charts. By the time ELO released an innovative cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" on their second studio LP, they were hit bound. They had already released several classic songs by the time this show was captured, including "Showdown," Ma Ma Belle," "Nightrider," "Poor Boy," and the already mentioned hits from Face The Music and Eldorado, all of which are performed at this timeless show.
After another half-dozen huge hits, Lynne brought the band's activity level down to a couple of LPs for pretty much the entire duration of the 1980s. He opted instead to record and produce with pals Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and George Harrison. After producing all four of them, Lynne became a member of the Traveling Wilburys, the supergroup spearheaded by Dylan and Harrison. By 1986, ELO had broken up.
Lynne's career as a producer would peak in 1995 with the recordings "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love," the first new Beatles songs since the band's break up in 1970, and the only real attempt at a band reunion. Lynne also released a solo album that was essentially ignored, and several of the remaining members of the band reemerged as ELO Part II, ending up in lawsuit with Lynne over the name. Lynne did tour again as Electric Light Orchestra, which roughly coincided with the release of the band's box set release and the studio album Zoom, but only Richard Tandy was part of this project.