Electric Light Orchestra Part 2: Access All Areas Live in Australia Review
Or indeed Electric Light Orchestra Part 3 if you include the very first incarnation of the band from when Roy Wood was still a member just before he left to form Wizzard.
But how sensible a strategy it is to just add such a suffix to the name of a band and to carry on touring and recording regardless of the loss of the actual creative talent. Never mind Wings and the Plastic Ono Band, Paul McCartney and John Lennon could both have taken The Beatles, Part II on the road, we might have Spice Girls, Parts II-VI touring the shopping malls of the land whilst David Gilmour could have avoided any nastiness with Roger Waters by releasing A Momentary Lapse of Reason as Pink Floyd, Part II. Although, I grant you, Roger Waters may have seen through that particular plan.
We all have some memory of ELO and for most of us it will be Jeff Lynne's comparatively tiny little face framed by an enormous perm, belting out orchestrally-flavoured pop classics including Mr Blue Sky, Roll Over Beethoven, Telephone Line, All Over The World and Don't Bring Me Down. They were just as famous for hauling cellists and violinists about the world with them, not to mention an enormous flying saucer, but Jeff Lynne was apparently tired of touring and retreated into the studio where, thanks to emerging technologies, he could let the non-rock bits of the band go before the band waved goodbye in 1986. But sensing that there was some flicker of life in the tired old dog, drummer Bev Bevan formed the Electric Light Orchestra Part 2 in 1990 and, Lynne excepted, round up the old gang and took them out on the road with occasional assistance from a full symphony orchestra. By the mid-nineties, the lineup included Bevan, Louis Clark, Mik Kaminski, Kelly Groucutt, Eric Troyer and Phil Bates and their 1995 and 1996 tours are captured on this DVD. It wasn't to last, though, and in 1999, Bev Bevan, the architect of ELO Part 2 walked out on the band, leaving the remaining members as The Orchestra.
And that might well have been that had Jeff Lynne not decided in 2001 to reform ELO, forgetting, one assumes, to contact anyone who had been involved with the Electric Light Orchestra Part 2. Possibly blind to good fortune swinging his way once again, Lynne was still quick to take advantage of Mr Blue Sky's use in the trailer for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and in the film version of The Magic Roundabout with ELO enjoying some measure of live success even with the presence of The Orchestra. Of course, they too were keen to enjoy some of the benefits of this resurgence of interest in the ELO sound and in 2005 won a legal fight to rename themselves the Electric Light Orchestra Part 2 Former Members, which may actually be the least succinct band name in recorded history.
With Bev Bevan's name on this DVD, we're actually stepping back beyond the reformation of ELO, before The Orchestra and long before ELO Part 2 Former Members Their Friend Doris And Her Mum stumbled into the limelight. And yet, we're in a time and with a band that don't appear to matter very much, which suggests that without Jeff Lynne, the various versions of ELO don't particularly matter. For a DVD that purports to tell the story of the Electric Light Orchestra Part 2, Access All Areas doesn't actually appear to be that interested in them, only finding an hour's worth of material in a 1995 concert with the Australian Rock Orchestra and a 1996 world tour. By this stage, the flying saucer had long gone, as had the waistlines of the various members of the band and despite using archive stills to remind us what a great draw ELO were in the seventies, they're reduced to surrounding themselves by young female dancers during Don't Bring Me Down to liven up their stage show, similar to the hiring of strippers to add a touch of glamour at otherwise dull stands at trade fairs. There are also interviews with the members of the band but unless you have some familiarity with the history of ELO, there's not much to glean from them. Finally, there are a number of live versions of various ELO songs, including Don't Bring Me Down, Standing In The Rain, Turn To Stone and Do Ya, as well as a video for All Fall Down, but only nine songs in an hour looks miserly with them not sounding as though they're the full versions of the songs, more live edits to be fitted into a DVD feature.
But it's the sense that this hour-long show is really the only feature on this disc that's most galling. Were this an extra on a two-disc set, then it would be difficult to have much to complain about but asking full price for something that even VH1 or the Biography Channel would think twice before broadcasting is actually insulting. Believing that an avid fan will purchase any old tat, this has crept out into the shops to snare anyone foolish enough to believe that they need everything produced under the various ELO titles. In this case, some modicum of sense should prevail and you should leave this well alone.
Were you shown this and asked to guess the format on which it's presented, I suspect that most of you would say VHS, such is the fuzzy, dreary look of it. A good deal of Access All Areas looks to have been shot on camcorder but not even the professionally-produced sections look that much better with the live footage being simply awful compared to the standard of live DVDs that are currently available. The stereo soundtrack isn't a great deal better, sounding very ordinary and without the quality of a PCM track nor the interest of a Dolby Digital or DTS surround track.
With the main feature only lasting sixty minutes, it would be unlikely that any extras were to be included and unless you count German subtitles and scene access, indeed there isn't.
Any article on ELO isn't really complete without a mention of Roy Gillespie, a DUP (Democractic Unionist Party) councillor in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. The DUP are, if you didn't know, the party that has Ian Paisley as its leader and, despite the occasional scandal that has dogged the party, are renowned for their hardline Presbyterian stance on Ulster's morals. Were there ever that you think might not offend them, ELO would be a good candidate but thanks to Roy's efforts, ELO were banned from Ballymena, with the reason given being the 3 Ds - Drink, Drugs and Debauchery!
Unfortunately, there is no mention of that here, which, given that it's likely to be the best known incident involving Electric Light Orchestra Part 2, makes this somewhat incomplete. This is, then, a rotten release and one that's hardly worthy of appearing on DVD. ELO, I'm sure, have done better features than this and they should be rewarded for that but certainly not for this.