ELO tribute band mix rock and classics for Palace Theater show

Electric Light Orchestra’s “Out of the Blue” album helped Ronda Price through a tough time in her life.

As a young teenager, she played it on repeat during the summer of 1979 after her mother died.

Forty years later, she offered a gesture of thanks by forming Into the Blue, an ELO tribute band.

The 11-member ensemble of classic rockers and classically trained musicians will perform at the Palace Theater in Greensburg at 2 p.m. on January 2.

“I’ve been an ELO fan since middle school,” said Price, a resident of Canton, Ohio. “My father drew me to them.”

He took her to see the band in 1981. Years later, she took her own teenage son, Ben Williamson, to see Jeff Lynne’s ELO in Columbus. He even wore his shirt from the 1981 show.

“He grew up with ELO thanks to me,” she said.

Williamson, 19, is the drummer for Into the Blue, while Price sings backing vocals.

“I’ve been a singer since I was 17,” she said. “I played in the local taverns, pubs and wineries. I sing in another classic rock band and I took the core of that band and formed Into the Blue.

“We’re really a garage band,” Price said.

The string section includes players from the Tuscarawas Philharmonic based at Kent State University.

Ben has been playing drums since he was 5 years old. Graduating from high school in 2021, he works as a machinist in the Akron area.

“Music is definitely his life,” said Price, who teaches language arts at Tuscarawas Valley Middle School, south of Canton.

United in ELO

Into the Blue is a true family pastime, she added, as the string section includes violinist Mary Bontrager and her daughters, cellist Abigail Bontrager and violinist Kaylee Bontrager.

The ensemble was formed shortly before the pandemic shut down entertainment venues.

“I was anxious about it during covid, but I kept tuning in. It gave us time to practice,” Price said.

Into the Blue’s first live show was held this summer at Lock 3 in downtown Akron, an outdoor venue hosting concerts, festivals and other seasonal events.

“It was two years to the day since that ELO show,” Price said. “They booked us and believed in us before we had anything professional to show for ourselves.”

They opened for Hard Day’s Night, a California-based Beatles tribute band.

The Palace show will be the band’s third live performance, but Price knows the venue well.

“I went there to see Donny Iris and other shows,” she said.

Palace audiences will hear the best songs from the classically influenced pop band formed in Birmingham, England in 1970 by songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood with drummer Bev Bevan.

During the 1970s and 1980s, ELO had a string of top 10 albums and singles, resulting in 27 top 40 songs on the UK Singles Chart and 15 top 20 songs on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Familiar tunes include “Livin’ Thing,” “Evil Woman,” “Turn to Stone,” “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” and “Mr. Blue Sky,” which ranked as the “Happiest Song Ever.” time” in a 2020 study and survey commissioned by Greatest Hits Radio.

Opening the show will be Evolution, a tribute to Eric Clapton.

Tickets from $20 to $50 are available by calling 724-836-8000 or online at thepalacetheatre.org.

Shirley McMarlin is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, smcmarlin@triblive.com or via Twitter .