The return of Orbital has been long overdue. They told people in 2006 that they were over and went their separate ways, but in Take That- esque fashion they rose like a phoenix out of the ashes to provide the world with their new album Wonky. It has been album of the week on 6Muisc, who play their latest single featuring Zola Jesus almost as much as Laura Veirs. In music journalist speak I would say that their new album is a ‘return to form’ in that it continues in the same vein of their previous work by making big, life affirming, emotive dance music that has a wide audience.
The crowd assembled at the Academy confirm this as there is the devils dandruff of music fans; young, old, Rockers, Indie- kids, Dub Steppers, Hippies, Cyber Goths, yes Cyber Goths (they’re like White Tigers, a rare breed). So all assembled but with a palpable sense of excitement for a band that haven’t toured since 2006. I make my way to the front and find the atmosphere expectant. I knock a dreadlocked hippy with my arm and when I say ‘Sorry’ rather than give me a smile and the peace sign he says ‘You will be’. There are an assembled group of seventeen year olds who are dancing before a beat has even been played. They are highly expectant, if you know what I mean.
To the left of me are some guys who are smoking dope as though they are in an open air festival. By the time Orbital come to the stage ‘scratch a hippy find a Facist’ is hoarse from whooping continually and the youngster who is ‘high on life’ is about to burrow his way down to Australia with the shapes he is making. The lights go down and the customary glow- in the dark glasses appear. The set begins with the looped vocals from The Moebius and the sample ‘when time becomes a loop, when time becomes a loop’ is repeated over and over and the stage is set for an intense experience. No need to do a demographic study of the crowd. Orbital are in town.
With no breaks for awkward introductions they move on to the much more melodic Halcyon On and On, a song I absolutely love and feel as though Orbital have chosen it especially for me. That is what they do best, they can transport people to different places, be it a sunset at Glastonbury or just that warm, fuzzy place in your mind. Their music gives people a definite sense of place and it feels as though nostalgia plays a large part of the evening. Halcyon On and On is like a warm coat that protects you from the cold and people have similar dream like expressions on their face. A healthy dose of nostalgia is great but that warm fuzzy coat can soon get you hot and sweaty and make you want to cast it off and get cool again.
So it’s good when they play new tracks from Wonky. Keeping their feet firmly in the present and an interesting deviation from their customary Techno sound comes in the form of ‘Beezledub’ not just borrowing bits of Dub Step and making it their own, but a stone cold drill- like Dub Step song, which is in stark contrast to the hands in the air, close your eyes moments from older songs. One too many of them and, it feels a little bit like a dance music clique and one which I find inherently false. Their new songs seem a lot more up to the minute and less dreamy, Wonky feat Lady Leshur is an upbeat song that has a US Garage sound to it a bit like Count and Sinden.
The visuals at the back of the stage are spot on and given their pay cheques they can probably afford to get some smoking hot visual artist to do the do. During one track, colours flash up and the name of the corresponding colour comes on the screen, simple but effective and makes me feel like a wide eyed toddler ready to be taught colours by Uncle Phil and Paul. All in all a gig not to be missed, but a word of caution never go to an Orbital gig on your own, because when you open your eyes from being lost in music, it’s even better when you have someone you love nearby to share a big cheesy grin with. Because this is not just any old gig, it is an Orbital gig. And it is dance music, and dance music is made to be shared.