I saw my first rock concert in Chicago Stadium, which no longer exists. Neither does the Electric Light Orchestra, the band I saw on that long ago night. But just as the sparkling United Center replaced the creaky old Stadium, so too has ELO been reborn as the less-than elegant sounding Electric Light Orchestra Part II. In “Access All Areas,” director George Reed mixes interviews, archival photographs and concert footage from ELO II’s recent wildly successful tour to examine both incarnations of this legendary rock troupe.
ELO II rose from the ashes of Jeff Lynne’s original Orchestra, which dominated FM radio in the 1970’s. When Lynne refused to jump-start the band a decade ago, drummer Bev Bevan faced the daunting task of recreating ELO’s distinctive sound without the group’s sole songwriter and producer.
Unfortunately, “AAA” zips through this history a bit hastily. For instance, we never really learn what caused the original band’s demise, while the film similarly glosses over the nearly stillborn formation of Part II. Finally, even though this doc’s about a band he’s no longer in, ELO was Lynne’s baby and his absence deals “AAA” a serious setback.
Still, the interviews do give veteran bandmembers an overdue chance to emerge from Lynne’s tall shadow, while the concert segments sparkle. As a closet fan, it’s sweet to see an ELO line-up rocking 20,000 people.
Even after several excellent new albums, skeptics scoff that Bevan’s incarnation is merely a fossilized ELO cover band cashing in on the oldies. “Access All Areas” shatters this myth, portraying, instead, an ELO Part II that refuses to “Turn to Stone.”