Brixton Academy, London, 24 June 2004
(originally written for Logo Magazine website)
have come a long way since they first hit the charts in
1990 with Chime. Starting life as an integral part of the
rave scene, they even took their name from London's giant
M25 ring-road, once trawled by expectant ravers as they
awaiting coded directions to the nearest illegal party.
Phil and Paul Hartnoll then witnessed the rave scene transform
from its earthy beginnings into what eventually became the
multi-million pound dance industry. They certainly played
their part, bringing dance music to the masses during their
landmark Glastonbury 1994 appearance and making it more
accessible, acceptable even, to many by proving that electronic
music did not always have to be uncreative, throwaway cheese.
ridden through dance music's boom years, Orbital appear
to symbolise the scene itself as now, in the midst of the
great dance music recession, the Hartnoll brothers have
decided to go their separate ways (just on a professional
basis of course). Tonight's gig is the first of a mini farewell
tour that also includes a final Glastonbury goodbye, but
there's the small matter of Euro 2004 to contend with first
as the start of the show is delayed by England's painful
penalty collapse to Portugal.
Orbital do finally take to the stage we are treated to a
kind of greatest hits set, starting with the gentle opener,
The Girl With The Sun In Her Head. This is followed by choral
sunrise track, Belfast, a beat-heavy version of The Box,
a storming rendition of acid metal beast Satan and a new
take on crowd pleasing live favourite, Halcyon. Orbital
play their usual live trick of dropping Bon Jovi's You Give
Love a Bad Name and Belinda Carlisle's Heaven Is A Place
On Earth into the middle of Halcyon but they take the joke
even further tonight, introducing The Darkness' I Believe
In A Thing Called Love into the mix too. And it fits like
a spandex glove.
of new tracks from The Blue Album, their seventh album proper,
also get a live airing. The buzzing bass of You Lot, featuring
an apocalyptic speech from Christopher Eccleston, has the
energy and edge of their earlier material and the wistful
warble and uplifting chords of One Perfect Sunrise, starting
off trancelike before soaring synths, reverb and kick drums
kick in, is classic Orbital.
of this is complimented by an amazing lightshow, a backdrop
made up of giant rotating pill packets and, of course, the
trademark light up feelers the duo wear, making them look
like they have just been beamed down from some far away
galaxy. They vigorously nod their way through Impact (The
Earth Is Burning) for the first encore and return to the
stage a second time for Doctor Who remix, Doctor?. The grand
finale comes courtesy of the track that started it all,
Chime, as the biggest glitter ball known to man bathes the
whole crowd in golden drops of light.
break between tunes gives proceedings a slightly fractured
feel but this reminds us of the fact that Orbital's music
never really was fully embraced by the superstar DJ set.
Rather than proving their downfall, however, this merely
served to set them apart from the myriad of other shortlived
dance acts. Popular misfits perhaps, their music was never
quite pigeon-holed securely in place by the dance scene
or the music press.
sad sometimes when a band split. Not so Orbital, two solo
careers from Phil & Paul could be just the ticket as
they seek to express their own increasingly divergent tastes.
Yes, the new material is as good as some of their previous
classics but, following two patchy and relatively aimless
albums, this return to form may only have been made possible
by the pressure drop that came with the knowledge this would
be their long playing swansong.
as England bowed out earlier, so now do Orbital. Orbital,
however, do it on a high. They think it's all over. It is
- Ian Roullier, 06/2004