Discovery and Xanadu Tours

 

Electric Light Orchestra -- Discovery and Xanadu Tours

An in-depth look at the tours that never happened


Comments and Observations

Discovery album Discovery Tour: In short, a tour in support of the 1979 Discovery album never happened.

It was the first album that ELO didn't tour to support. In fact, ELO never did any live performances at all, tour or TV, in support of it. Instead, they filmed a Shine A Little Love video at Musicland Studios and a special album music video for each song on the Discovery album (which proved to be the last appearance ever in ELO for cellists, Hugh McDowell and Melvyn Gale). As singles were lifted from the album, these videos were used to promote the album and singles, rather than a tour.

Led Zeppelin at Knebworth The big question is, why did ELO not tour in 1979? There is no definitive answer. Certainly Jeff Lynne himself has lamented on several occasions that he was getting tired of the touring grind and that he thought the spaceship on the Out Of The Blue was a bit over the top. ELO's use of strings as an integral part of the band was waning after Out Of The Blue so clearly Jeff was planning to take the band in a new direction and the lack of a Discovery tour is a sign of that. Also, while Discovery and its singles were in the charts, the band was busy creating songs for the Xanadu album. This may have been a contributing factor as well for a lack of a tour.

In August 1979, ELO were given the opportunity to be the headlining act at one-off concert at England's Knebworth music festival, playing before a crowd of 120,000. They turned it down and their fellow Birmingham band, Led Zeppelin, played the date instead. This was a missed opportunity and clearly Jeff was not interested in playing live concerts at this time. As it was, he married his second wife in August of 1979, so that probably had an impact on the decision as well.

ELO were at the pinnacle of their popularity at the time, just having come off of the very successful tour for Out Of The Blue and massive sales of the album. The Discovery album was a huge hit, spawning four hit singles, including their biggest hit ever in the USA, Don't Bring Me Down. Perhaps to some, Jeff Lynne included, this all proved that ELO didn't need to tour. Following this, ELO did not tour in support of Xanadu or Secret Messages and did less than five concert dates in support of Balance of Power. Only the Time album featured a full tour after 1979. The lack of a Discovery tour was the beginning of the end for the Jeff Lynne-led ELO playing live until the 2015 revival.

Whatever the ultimate reasons, the tour simply did not happen and it wasn't until 1981 that the band played live again.



Xanadu album Xanadu Tour: In short, a tour in support of the 1980 Xanadu soundtrack album never happened.

Xanadu premiere ticket Electric Light Orchestra really did almost no support at all for the album, whether touring, TV performances or interviews; the exception to this being Jeff Lynne's all-too-brief appearance on the Making Xanadu television special. What makes this an amazing feat is that the only promotion the songs had were Olivia-Newton-John's promotion efforts, Universal and MCA's promotion efforts, and the film itself, which subsequently turned out to be a box office failure. The songs themselves were very successful with the song Xanadu being ELO's only UK #1 single.

It's mostly speculation as to why the band didn't tour in support of the album. The most likely reason is that the band never really considered the Xanadu project a true Electric Light Orchestra effort. Rather, they viewed it as a one-off side project. Consequently, a tour in support of it was not warranted. The band was also enjoying an extended vacation with Bev Bevan compiling and releasing his The ELO Story book and Jeff Lynne enjoying time with his new wife and daughter as well as setting up a new home in France.

Subsequently, the original band never played any of the Xanadu tracks live on any tour. This is also likely because the band never really considered the album and its songs as proper ELO songs. It wasn't until many years later, after ELO had broken up, that the Jeff Lynne-less revival ELO Part II performed some of the songs from the album (including a Kelly Groucutt lead vocal for the title song). For the 2014 Hyde Park concert, Jeff included All Over The World in the setlist and included the song during the Alone In The Universe tour starting in 2015. This was likely done due to the great popularity of the All Over the World: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra album which included the song. Played on the 2017 tour was Xanadu, using mostly the rerecorded arrangment heard on the 2000 Flashback compilation and on the best selling All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra compilation from 2005.

Like Discovery, a tour simply did not happen and it wasn't until 1981 that the band played live again.


This page is intended to be a complete record of information on the Electric Light Orchestra Discovery and Xanadu tours (or lack thereof). If you notice any errors or omissions, please contact me at jefflynnesongs@gmail.com and let me know. I strive for accuracy.

Robert Porter
June 2024