Live Review

Orbital, O2 Academy, Glasgow

Orbital may be playing to an older audience these days, but the rave veterans still know how to enjoy themselves.

It takes five minutes of the support outfit Japanese Popstars’ bass-heavy set for the inevitable Big Crusty With Dreads to start throwing shapes. The ageing ravers are out in force for Orbital’s return to the live fray. As a card carrying, boot wearing, uptight indie kid, I never really got Dance Culture but as an exercise in getting out of my guitar-centric musical comfort zone, I’m here to see one of the longest serving and most popular dance acts of the last 20 years do their thing.

There is as much “intelligent dance music” on my iPod as the next Radiohead fan’s, but listening to electronic music in a gig setting has never really been my bag. By dint of sticking close to their original template for crowd pleasing techno with clever samples and flashy graphics, Orbital have endured a couple of comebacks and still fill large halls. Their latest LP, ‘Wonky’, is by all accounts as good as anything in their back catalogue, and on my headphones I’ve enjoyed listening to it.

In a live setting however, dance music has always felt like a party to which I wasn’t invited. A packed room shuddering under the weight of this much bass leaves me feeling alienated. My shoes are too heavy for the moves and I don’t have the physical grammar to communicate in this language. I find myself searching for an emotional focus that isn’t there; instead of abandon and carefree surrender, I revert to my inner angst-ridden teenager.

The Hartnoll brothers, with their trademark head torches, offer visual cues as the most enthusiastic members of the crowd punch the air with that peculiar “spinning a plate” rotating finger gesture. Moebius segues into a Belinda Carlyle chorus dropped into ‘Halcyon’ then, after a quick detour via Bon Jovi, they melt into the seminal soprano-sampling ‘Belfast’.

Angled metal surfaces bounce the light show around the hall; colours, E-numbers, portholes and jetsam provide a stream of images that accompany the variety of beats. The lyrics of The Carpenters’ ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft’ relay across the screen and I realise I shouldn’t be taking the evening so seriously. My snobbery about “mindless” dance music may be born of residual emo bitterness, but even a glowstick phobic like myself can appreciate a classic like the encore ‘Chime’. Orbital may be playing to an older audience these days, but the rave veterans still know how to enjoy themselves.

Tags: Orbital, Features

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