Moscow on ELO's Route to Revival

Sometimes success is the worst thing that can happen to a band. So it was with the British band Electric Light Orchestra, which comes to Moscow in a new version for two shows Tuesday and Wednesday at the Rossiya Hotel's concert hall. ELO's success, which included 13 albums and dozens of hits like "Evil Woman," "Livin' Thing," "Strange Magic" and "Telephone Line," led the band along a path from early-'70s visionary to late-'70s hit maker to mid-'80s burn-out to, inevitably, early-'90s reunion band. But ask founding drummer Bev Bevan if ELO Part II is a "reunion band" out to cash in on its name-appeal and he will say, well, "yes." "After spending years and years to build up ELO's name it seemed a bit of a waste to throw it away," Bevan said by telephone from England. But ELO's reputation was already tarnished by the time Bevan and several of the other founding members got around to regrouping in 1989, following a three-year hiatus and the loss of leader Jeff Lynne. Indeed, after watching ELO self-destruct in the '80s, it is hard to remember that when the band was formed in 1973 it carried a revolutionary concept. Under Lynne's leadership, ELO brought classical instruments into rock music. Unlike previous experiments, however, ELO did it in a big, flashy way that didn't apologize for the presence of violins and cellos. Instead, it celebrated them, remaking them into tools of rock 'n' roll. But even more importantly, it sounded good. The band's success peaked in 1978 with ELO's stadium-sized "Out of the Blue" world tour. Bevan acknowledges that somewhere in the stadium concerts and Top 10 hits of that time, ELO lost its way. "We tended to look at the charts a lot," he said. "That's the trouble, you get success and you want more." "When we first started making albums we never thought about what song is going to be a single," he said. "But by the 'Out of the Blue' album certainly we'd make an album and think, 'Which of these tracks are going to be singles and let's make them the right length and let's mix it so it's good for radio.'" Though several hit singles followed the spaceship tour, the band's popularity plummeted. But as the band floundered, Lynne's reputation grew. Lynne moved to Los Angeles to become one of the industry's hottest producers, making records for George Harrison. He became producer/guitarist for the Traveling Wilburies, a band that included Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison. ELO, following two consecutive dismal records, disbanded in 1986. ELO Part II was formed in 1989 by most of the members of the original band including Bevan on drums, Mik Kaminsky on violin, Kelly Goucutt on bass and vocals, Louis Clark on orchestral keyboards and Eric Troyer on keyboards. But the absence of Lynne forced Bevan to change the name. Bevan said fans of the old band should be pleased; the concert is predominantly a greatest hits show of the old ELO music. "We're trying to bring more and more of the new stuff in, but you know how it is, you have to do the hits," he said. ELO Part II plays Tuesday and Wednesday beginning at 7 P.M. at the concert hall "Rossiya" in the Rossiya Hotel. Tickets cost $20-$60 and are available at the theater's ticket office from 11 A.M.-7 P.M. Tel. 298-1124. Nearest metro: Kitai-Gorod.