Brian Paone

Author // Musician

I'm not crying, you're crying: seeing Electric Light Orchestra live for the first time

I became an Electric Light Orchestra fan through their album Out of the Blue when my mother brought it home on vinyl when I was a kid. The ELO spaceship on the front cover drew me in, but it was the sounds, harmonies, hooks, singalong choruses, and wide array of instrumentation that made me take notice. I had already gone "all in" with my Pink Floyd obsession by this point, but I had yet to find a band that I felt matched them in regards to being worthy of my fandom. That moment came when I heard ELO's Time album for the first time when it came out.

That was when ELO matched Pink Floyd as my favorite band of all time (I now have 5 bands that hold that title). Time was ELO's 10th album and I realized then that they could do no wrong. All 10 albums were perfect, in my eyes (the only other band to have made a run of 'perfect' album being Pink Floyd.)

In 2001, I had gotten up early one morning (before the sun had risen) and went to wait in line at a Ticketmaster. I scored 3rd row center tickets to see ELO for the first time. The show was still a few months away, but I had started counting the days immediately. I was so excited I was finally going to see them live for the first time after so many years of obsessed fandom. Then … I got an automated call from Ticketmaster about a month later stating they had cancelled the tour and they were not going to reschedule. I would be refunded. Then, even worse, ELO seemed to have dropped off the face of the planet. That album they were touring on, Zoom, would be the last album for 16 years. There would be no more shows for another 15 years. POOF! Just …. silence.

I started writing fiction in 1988 and ELO's Time album has always been rolling around in my head to turn into a story. Fast forward to 2012; I had two published novels at this point, and we were living in Japan, and I had listened to Time one day while I went for a run, and it was like the entire story unfolded in front of me. My third published novel, in 2015, was my novelization of ELO's Time album, titled Yours Truly, 2095 (taken from Track 3 off the album). I had also given up hope that Electric Light Orchestra would ever get back together and record another album or even ever play another show. My novel was my own personal homage to myself and for ELO fans as way to say goodbye to one of the 5 best bands to ever grace the earth.

Then … there was a blip in the ELO camp. A cricket chirp. A spark in the form of 1 single show. A show that even blew their expectations out of the water; a show that made them think, "do people still care and is there still room for ELO in the world after a 15-year silence?" They tested the waters with some more shows (all overseas) and then announcement that there would be a new album. It was like Lazarus rising from the grave for me.

When the tour for the new album, Alone in the Universe, was announced, I got 2 tickets. I'll be honest, as a Pavlovian reaction, I kept waiting for that email from Ticketmaster to say this tour had been cancelled also. I was *this* close to seeing them 17 years ago, 3rd row, and it got stripped from me. I felt like this upcoming show was a dream and I'd wake up to find they never had reformed, there wasn't a new album, and my tickets would be a figment of my imagination.

When I got in the car Thursday night with my 9-year-old son, Everett, to head to the venue, I still was waiting for the show to be cancelled and for them to say, "Sorry for the joke, but we're going to go away again." But … this time, I got to see my favorite band live, for the first time after 35 years of die-hard fandom.

It's hard to explain to people who aren't as obsessed with music or specific bands as I am what it's like, even as a grown 41-year-old man, to stand in a venue and actually see these people in front of you performing these songs. I cried pretty much 80% of the time, out of pure elation. I didn't expect to start bawling when they played "Sweet Talkin' Woman." Something about my childhood and nostalgia and all those years of listening to these songs through elementary school, through high school, through college, through my first real job, through getting married, through having kids, through buying a house, through the highs and lows … ELO were there through ALL of that. And now here they were, in the flesh for the first time. It was so powerful that I didn't even want to talk about the show for the first few days afterward.

But to watch my son out of the corner of my eye, standing on his seat throughout the show, dancing, clapping, and singing along to most of the songs, brought me to different tears. To share that with him--share something that is such a large part of who I am and where I came from musically--was amazing.

Words can't describe how it felt to stand in front of them for those 100 minutes after all these years. Words can't describe how amazing it is that Electric Light Orchestra look to be back for good after their 16 year hiatus (one that I felt was irreversible). Words can't describe the sound that came from that stage, like a warm familiar blanket tossed around my shoulders. Words can't describe the experience … but tears did. And I'm not crying! You're crying!

 

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