Electronic pioneers, Orbital, roll into Manchester with a new album to plug, and a bunch of faces to make smiley.
Orbital have spent time over the last four decades honing, refining, and pioneering their sound. It is fitting that their acid heavy sound is blaring out not too far from the hallowed grounds of the Haçienda in Manchester on a somewhat balmy evening.
From the demographic of the audience, I imagine that plenty of the punters in attendance graced the walls of FAC51, way back when. Prior to Orbital taking the stage, warm up duties fall with Japanese born DJ, Manami. The sound inside the Albert Hall is pounding from the get go as the Bristol based DJ gradually raises the temperature through her big beat, techno and off kilter house. Amassing crowds gradually get into the set as the time nears for Orbital to take the stage. Manami builds towards a crescendo by serenading the crowd with Inner City’s Big Fun; an iconic track. With her arms raised and a smile lighting up the room, the stage is set for Orbital to move straight into their set.
The acid heat is delivered immediately. Smiley opens up the set with it’s tale of secret acid house parties in London. There is nothing secret about this though. As the track goes, ‘This is acid, man.’ Plenty of Orbital’s repertoire has the acid tinge but there is so much more when you dig beneath the surface.
Huge hits in the form of Belfast, Chime, Lush and Impact are all on show and naturally raise the roof of the wonderful Albert Hall auditorium. All are flanked by blinding visuals and the shadowy figures of the Hartnoll brothers complete with their iconic headgear. Another ‘classic’ is given a tincture of ‘spice’ with the brothers showing their always playful side with a Spice Girls sample dropped into the mix for good measure.
Whilst the older songs all still bring untold joy and resonate hard with the sold out crowd, Orbital are not looking at the past and treading water; they have a new album to showcase. Not only is Optical Delusion new, it’s truly brilliant. It is sure to be bothering end of year lists in 2023 (our review here).
There is a good clutch of material from the album included in the show. Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song) is classic Orbital. With this an The New Abnormal, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what these songs refer to. Features are a prime part of Optical Delusion; whilst not there in person, Anna B Savage graces Home and Penelope Isles adds her vocal the brilliant Are You Alive? The latter sounds absolutely massive with the ‘song of two halves’ vibe. The first half is all blissful with the slightly unnerving lyric, and the second is a pounding beast; all euphoria and white light. These songs will stick around for a long time.
One of the highlights of the set is the Sleaford Mods featuring Dirty Rat. Performed live, this visceral song is turbo charged. The venom that comes from Jason Williamson on the vocal atop the strafing bassline and beat has the crowd singing along in unison. From one visceral piece comes another; immediately into Satan. This is another of Orbital’s iconic cuts; it is stripped back to it’s original acid heavy version on this night with the heavier sampled guitars from Metallica’s Kirk Hammett layered on top. Visually, it is a complete onslaught of despot leaders, bombs being dropped, pentagrams and satanic barcodes. The coda of the song hits up a drum and bass tempo that leads into Requiem For The Pre-Apocalypse; another of the new cuts. It meshes together will with Satan and shows that the older and the newer parts of Orbital’s music sit together very well.
Orbital have sound-tracked a generation, and continue to draw new fans. Their iconic sound is widely regarded as one of the most pioneering. They sit comfortably next to the electronic greats and with their current momentum, you can only see them delivering more and more high quality music as time moves on.
Check out Smiley from Orbital’s 30 Something collection.
All concert photography by Stewart Fullerton from Orbital’s show in Glasgow on 28th March 2023.
Categories: Live Reviews