November 16, 2012 – 19:29
***** (5 stars out of 6); November 14 at Store Vega
Rewind the clock to the late 80s/early 90s in the UK. Practically every major news tabloid is crammed with one headline after another documenting the cultural phenomenon that has become known as ‘Acid house’. The rave scene is at its primordial best, propelled by a nation of discontented citizens who are changing England’s reputation as a nation of hooligans to that of one nation under a groove. Bands like Tangerine Dream, 808 State and Orbital are at the forefront of the musical and cultural revolution, playing a blend of space-age electronic music that’s heavy on the use of short, often-looped samples and squelchy synthesiser inputs.
Now, fast forward a good few years to Wednesday night at Store Vega. Orbital are on stage performing to a venue that’s far from sold out. Phil and Paul Hartnoll, the two brothers who make up the band, seem as energetic as ever as they step onto the pitch black stage with their characteristic bright torches on either side of their heads. A few white flashes later, and the brothers have tucked themselves behind a massive array of analogue instruments, flanked by an elaborate series of light devices and smoke canisters that form the colossal spacecraft-like stage on which they will perform.
‘Time Becomes,’ the opening track of their eponymous 1993 album is the first of many good tunes on the evening as the looped sample of a Michael Doorn line from Star Trek shatters the silence. This is followed by a series of short tracks in quick succession during which samples from Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ and Bon Jovi’s ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ do their bit to woo the commercial-music appetite of the Danish crowd.
Midway through the show and Orbital are in fifth gear. The songs are longer and more driven and the light show that accompanying them is out of this world. The stage is aflame in a kaleidoscope of clashing colours and neon beams that criss-cross the fog-filled haze. Down below, the crowd, most of whom are in their 30s and 40s are awestruck, much like this reviewer. The last time the floor reverberated as it did on Thursday night had to be back when dubstep mammoths Skream and Benga performed in 2010, so credit is due for the brilliant acoustics on the evening.
The show ends as it started, with the Hartnoll brothers exiting the pitch black stage after the curtain call, their faces alight with the content of two seasoned veterans of the electronic music scene. If Orbital are as good as they were in Vega on Wednesday, I can only wonder what they must have been like when they first burst onto the scene at the start of the 90s.