the state of things

 

Don't Bring Me Down

by Douglas Lindsay - 09:42 on 28 November 2008

A bleak, crappy, depressive morning. Too much laundry, too many books to send off, too much paperwork and too many dishes to wash and endless crap piled up everywhere and books to write and songs to fine tune. One of those days when it feels like someone is tightening a knot on your brain.

This may be because I went to see ELO last night. But probably not.

ELO. My friend had a spare ticket and asked whether TPCKAM or I would like to go. TPCKAM and I played Russian roulette with a loaded 4-tonne nuclear weapon and I lost. I went to see ELO.

Jeff Lynne wasn't on stage, which changes the dynamic a bit. It's a bit like Dire Straits without Mark Knopfler or The Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger or Celine Dion without Celine Dion. And without Jeff Lynne they're not officially allowed to call themselves ELO. I never quite got to the bottom of the official name for this version of the band. It was along the lines of Some Of The Guys Who Used To Be In ELO or I Can't Believe It's Not ELO.

They came on, full of beans, yet all looking a bit old and sad, and played ELO songs for an hour and forty-five minutes to a very, very enthusiastic Polish audience. One of our crowd remarked that they had never seen so many middle-aged Poles actually enjoying themselves. A lugubrious lot, the Poles. Unless, it is now revealed, they are in the company of some of the former members of ELO. The sixty year-old woman next to me was up and dancing from early on, doing a bit of a Rick Astley, only stopping for the slow ones so she could settle back and take her phone out to wave in the air.

The front man was the bass player, who appears to have been there since their heyday on Top of the Pops in the 70's. There may have been another couple of guys who'd been around that long. Several pages on Wikipedia chart the tortuous path of ELO, through hundreds of different names and formations and law suits. They are the rock 'n roll equivalent of the Balkans.

There's something a bit sad about old guys playing the same rock music they were playing thirty years earlier, especially when they are duty bound to play the same fifteen songs every night. It doesn't seem so bad when they have been producing new music for all that time and have four hundred different songs to choose from - McCartney, Dylan, Stones etc. These guys have continued to release albums and attract fans, and at the concerts there may be a section of the crowd who have been following them since the 60's, but there will also be a younger audience too. At these retrospective shows the audience are generally as old as the greybeards up on the stage.

At one point three of the guys from I Can't Believe It's Not ELO rocked in line in the middle of the stage, guitars blaring, doing a Status Quo. This manoeuvre has long since been outlawed by multiple EU regulations, and they broke out of formation just in time before the Polish State Police stormed the stage.

However, for all that, for all the inappropriate long hair and the creaky jumps and the dodgy wardrobe, there they were, doing their thing, and there were four thousand of the most miserable people on the planet up on their feet singing and dancing. Maybe that's all that matters. They wouldn't be doing it if there wasn't an audience, and in the case of ELO, they don't even have to resort to playing on some awful English pier at the end of September. They're still conquering Eastern Europe, still attracting the crowds.

ELO. Music to make you happy. Even if your Polish.


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