Transgenerational ELO Tribute Band Performs Saturday in Guangzhou

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Ronda Price’s voice softened and crackled at the memory of her late father taking her to the Richfield Coliseum to see the Electric Light Orchestra in concert in 1981.

“I had so much love for ELO,” she said. “It was a time of good and bad memories. My mum had died in 1979, and my dad and I became close, and I think the ‘Out of the Blue’ album got me through that summer. .

“When I think of ‘Out of the Blue,’ I think it’s bittersweet to me, but I played that and played that and played that for comfort,” Price said, fighting back tears.

Decades later, she took her teenage son, Ben Williamson, to watch Jeff Lynne’s ELO at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, and he wore his shirt from the 1981 show.

Into the Blue, a local ELO tribute band, will perform Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Canton Palace Theater.  Tickets are $20 and are available online at the venue's website or at the theater box office.

Today, the musical bond between mother and child is even stronger as founding members of Into the Blue, a tribute band to the Electric Light Orchestra, performing Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Canton Palace Theater at 605 Market Ave. NOT.

On the 2019 ELO show with his son, “I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve been in (classic rock) garage bands all my life,’ and I thought we could do it because I had so much love for ELO,” Price said he founded the tribute band with his son.

Tickets for the first performance of Into the Blue in Stark County are available at https://cantonpalacetheatre.org.

Tickets can also be purchased for $20, plus service charge, by calling the Palace Theater box office at 330-454-8172 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the box office during these hours and at the door from 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Into the Blue, a local ELO tribute band, will perform Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Canton Palace Theater.  Tickets are $20 and are available online at the venue's website or at the theater box office.

Featured String Instruments

Featuring string players, Price said the 11-piece tribute band strives to be as faithful as possible to the original band’s epic orchestration, Beatlesque pop melodies and tight, layered vocal harmonies.

ELO’s hit songs include “Don’t Bring Me Down”, “Livin’ Thing”, “Do Ya” and “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”.

Ronda Price of Into the Blue, an ELO tribute band, performs at Lock 3 in Akron in July.  The group will perform at the Canton Palace Theater on Saturday.

String players may vary slightly by performance, but the overall tribute ensemble includes Price, de Bolivar, backing vocals, and tambourine; Jeff Rutter of Perry Township, guitar and vocals; Geo Malatesta of Louisville, guitar and vocals; Paul Zavasky, bass and vocals; Williamson, from Bolivar, drums; Mary Bontrager de Massillon, violinist; Abigail Bontrager de Massillon, cellist; Kaylee Bontrager de Massillon, violinist; Barb Phelps-Hutson of Canton, violinist; Aaron Fried of Kent, cellist; and Brent Schloneger of Canton, keyboards.

“I picked the right people because I knew they loved ELO,” said Price, 56, a language arts teacher at Tusksy Valley Middle School.

Into the Blue, a local ELO tribute band, will perform Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Canton Palace Theater.  Tickets are $20 and are available online at the venue's website or at the theater box office.

A band member transcribed all violin and cello parts for the corresponding songs.

“We loved all the songs and it was a really fun experience, but it took a long time to get all the parts,” Price explained. “But it finally came together and it’s really amazing.

“We wanted it to be authentic and we wanted it to be as complete as possible in a live performance.”

Mary Bontrager, who holds a master’s degree in music from Wright State University, said the collective instrumentation creates a “really, really awesome” sound.

“You can put the sound of strings on a synthesizer and play it on (keyboards) or backing tracks, and it’s not the same thing,” Bontrager, 45, said. “I can hear the differences, and also…with string players you can see our bows working and you can see our fingers moving, so visually it’s just a cooler show because you can see what we do.”

Jeff Lynne of the band Electric Light Orchestra performs at the Glastonbury music festival in Somerset, England in 2016. Lynne and the band are the inspiration for Into the Blue, a local ELO tribute band performing on Saturday night at the Canton Palace Theatre.

The classically trained musician is the concertmaster of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic. A former music teacher at Lake Center Christian School, Bontrager also manages Azure Strings, a Stark County-based ensemble that performs at weddings, banquets and special events.

Joining Bontrager in the group are his daughters, Abigail, 17, a freshman at Malone University, and Kaylee, 19, a sophomore at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Performing at Lock 3 in downtown Akron in July, Into the Blue, a local ELO tribute band, is set to play the Canton Palace Theater on Saturday night.  Tickets are $20 and are available on the theater's website or at the box office.

Live shows

Into the Blue persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic, canceling two concerts before performing its inaugural show in July at Lock 3 in downtown Akron.

Landing the gig took persuasion, Price admitted.

“We didn’t have any recordings and because of COVID we didn’t play (gigs) so the (person in charge of booking Lock 3) believed in us and asked if we could open for (a Beatles tribute band), so it worked,” she said.

“What really drew us in was the people singing and clapping and just singing along with us,” Price said. “That just made our day,”

Performing at Lock 3 in downtown Akron, Into the Blue, a local ELO tribute band, will perform at the Canton Palace Theater on Saturday night.  Tickets are $20 and are available on the theater's website or at the box office.

Not your typical tribute band

Another reason for forming Into the Blue was that the music scene isn’t “oversaturated with ELO tribute bands”, Price said.

Elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 and fronted by frontman Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra rose to popularity in the 1970s for its blend of classic-tinged progressive rock and radio pop.

The 19-song Into the Blue set will feature ELO’s most recognizable tracks, including “Mr. Blue Sky.”

Other ELO classics are “Strange Magic”, “Evil Woman”, “Hold On Tight”, “Turn to Stone” and a cover of “Roll Over Beethoven”.

Elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, the Electric Light Orchestra is known for its popular songs,

“They can look forward to every hit they remember from ELO,” Price said of Saturday’s concert attendees.

“It would warm our hearts if we passed someone to ELO,” she added. “It would warm our hearts if the kids came.”

ELO’s notoriety expansion was “Mr. Blue Sky”, which was featured in the 2017 Marvel film, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”.

“We saw kids singing that song at Lock 3 and it warmed our hearts,” Price said.

“To me, I don’t know, maybe I’m naive about it, but if you haven’t heard an ELO song, you’ve never turned on your radio,” she said. . “Never never.”

Performing at Lock 3 in downtown Akron in July, members of Into the Blue, an 11-piece ELO tribute band, will perform at the Canton Palace Theater on Saturday night.  Tickets are $20 and are available on the theater's website or at the box office.

Contact Ed at 330-580-8315 and ebalint@gannett.com

On Twitter @ebalintREP

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