thu 25/07/2024

Orbital, O2 Institute, Birmingham review - the techno titans celebrate their rave years in style | reviews, news & interviews

Orbital, O2 Institute, Birmingham review - the techno titans celebrate their rave years in style

Orbital, O2 Institute, Birmingham review - the techno titans celebrate their rave years in style

The 'Green' and 'Brown' albums get a full airing to an ecstatic crowd

Orbital: alien style

On Friday evening, dance veterans Orbital touched down in Birmingham to celebrate two of the most significant and acclaimed albums in rave culture. These discs may both be over 30 years old, but the Brummies were out in force, packed into an overfull O2 Institute, and lapped it up.

Paul and Phil Hartnoll’s Green and Brown albums, along with Underworld’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman and the Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, were pretty much responsible for giving the early 1990s wave of electronic dance music a credibility far beyond the clubs and the outdoor raves – and were more than enough to trump the “but where are the guitars?” nay-sayers of the time. They certainly still pack a serious punch that is far more powerful than mere nostalgia and had an audience that was considerably more diverse than just aging ravers going bananas for three hours, in a room that was beginning to resemble a Turkish bathhouse by the time the house lights came back on.

The set was divided into a full performance of each album, with tracks more-or-less played in the order that they appeared on the discs in question, with a 20-minute intermission between them, and then an encore that took in a few waifs and strays and some more up-to-date tunes.

So, we were initially transported back to 1991 with Star Trek’s Michael Dorn intoning that we were coming to “a twist in the fabric of space… where time becomes a loop”. The Hartnoll brothers soon appeared, looking distinctly alien themselves, with their twin torch headsets, silhouetted against a backdrop that gave off HAL 9000 vibes from 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Speed Freak” and “Oolaa” followed with thumping beats and brain-frying visuals. “Desert Storm” was introduced with a sample of Peter Sissons announcing the start of the first Gulf War on the BBC News as bodies began to move and hands went up in the air. While the introduction to “Chime” was greeted like a long-lost friend before “Belfast” wound things down into the interval.

After a brief beer and toilet break, that gave the evening a bit of a rave-as-indie-gig type of vibe, Paul and Phil returned to belt out what might reasonably be described as the most influential album in dance music: variously known as Orbital, Orbital 2 and the Brown Album. Tracks like “Lush 3-1”, “Lush 3-2”, “Impact” and “Remind” got the mass of human soup in the stalls shaking a tail feather and raising their hands to the ceiling with beatific smiles, as clouds of steam and the occasional burst of vape smoke rose upwards. However, it was the mighty “Halcyon + On + On” that inevitably provoked the most ecstatic reaction before the Hartnolls took a second breather.

They were soon back for an encore that included the hysterical “Spicy” and recent single “Dirty Rat”, with its vitriol-spitting “You voted for them, look at you. You dirty rat!” refrain by Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson, who unfortunately only appeared via the screen behind the stage. However, it was the anthemic “Satan”, with its Butthole Surfers’ sample, stomping groove and seizure-inducing strobes that really turned things up to 11 and blew the roof off before things finally ground to a halt.

The mass of human soup in the stalls shook a tail feather and raised their hands to the ceiling with beatific smiles


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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