wed 29/05/2024

Brighton Festival: Haçienda Classical, The Dome | reviews, news & interviews

Brighton Festival: Haçienda Classical, The Dome

Brighton Festival: Haçienda Classical, The Dome

Despite an ill-balanced sound, the Mancunian orchestral/house music mash-up kicks off

The Manchester Camarata Orchestra light up the Dome

Of all the nostalgia-fests, of all the retro events, those that involve rave culture have the wildest sense of glee. The atmosphere in the Dome tonight, before a note has even been played – just as when The Prodigy hit this city last year – dials the anticipation levels up to delirious.

The crowd is mostly fortysomething and fiftysomething, but many are already dancing as the hall fills, while Peter Hook, ex of New Order, spins quarter century-old dance tunes that once graced the speakers of the long-closed, now-mythical Mancunian club mecca, The Haçienda.

From the grins, ecstatic gurns and cheeky winks of acknowledgement passed about, many a babysitter in Brighton tonight will welcome home parents with pupils the size of overcoat buttons. The tips will be generous and they may even be asked to stay for a Lucozade and a jump around the living room to dusty old 808 State 12”s. The desire to party is so rich here it’s almost palpable in the air. When the Manchester Camerata Orchestra and its soulful singers hit the stage, alongside Haçienda DJs Graeme Parke and Mike Pickering (him off M People), a keyboard player hits a familiar motif, then the screaming really starts.

It’s a veritable smörgåsbord of 24-carat MDMA life-changersThe night’s aim is to shine a light on the dawning of the house era and on how The Haçienda was at the heart of that music revolution hitting Britain. Danny Rampling, who ran Shoom, the London clubland equivalent, is even in the building, nodding along approvingly. However, in truth, the sound is a let-down. That’s what makes this a 4/5 review instead of 5/5. Every other aspect is explosively joyful but, despite the massed ranks of strings, half the time they’re almost inaudible beneath synthesized beats and those Italo-boogie-woogie piano lines. MC Tunes – Manc hip hop two-hit wonder from the appropriate era – is on hand to hype us, and he’s a funny, stocky presence, but he too is lost amid the mulch of sound. It’s a shame.

Then again, mass enjoyment is far from curtailed. They keep the classics coming and, if you’re of a certain vintage and were swept off by that wave when it arrived, it’s heady stuff. Shouting along to Joe Smooth’s gospel-tinged anthem, “Promised Land”, alongside everyone else, my eyes prickle, recalling some who aren’t here anymore but loved this stuff back then. Hook returns, playing bass and singing, for a just-passable stab at “Blue Monday”, and is all but drowned out by the E-congregation singalong. “Good Life”, “Voodoo Ray”, “Strings of Life”, “Pacific State”, “I’ll Be Your Friend”, “Move Your Body” (Marshall Jefferson version and Xpansions version): it’s a veritable smörgåsbord of 24-carat MDMA life-changers that sends the capacity crowd doolally.

The howling, roaring noise from us all by the time they end on the best-selling UK single of 1989 – Black Box's hysterical sample-fest, “Ride on Time” – is a thing of wonder. I recall how pleased I was when that song beat Rick Astley to sell the most as the decade ended. I thought then, “We’re gonna win the Nineties” – and we did – not that the Britpop media orthodoxy allows it. The stage fills one final time for “You Got The Love”, the deathless, much-covered Source-featuring-Candi Staton number, and, with hundreds of voices raising the roof, it sounds like a group hymn to something idyllic. Not sure what, mind. We were never clear on that. But it leaves us stumbling into the night, madly euphoric, to ponder whether geriatric tea dance raves will one day be the fate of all present.


Ah  bollocks... Gutted I missed it.  I'll have to wait till the tea parties come around!!

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