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Gig review: Orbital, Picture House, Edinburgh

  • by DAVID POLLOCK
 

Most well-known for one of the defining pop cultural moments of the 1990s, when their headlining Glastonbury set in 1994 suddenly shifted the previously underground dance music experience into the mainstream for a nation of viewers, Orbital have barely altered their set one iota in the near two decades in between.

Orbital

Picture House, Edinburgh

Star rating: * * * *

It’s still a riot of laser lights and blazing computer-generated visuals, with Kent brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll only visible amidst it all thanks to the trademark double-torch headsets they wear to see their equipment.

In a climate where it seems as if such large-scale but ultimately simple sounds and production are once more back in vogue thanks to America’s embrace of what’s currently referred to as EDM (electronic dance music), it’s telling that this seemed almost like a nostalgia show in a UK context, where this music has a long history.

Yet despite the vintage of many of the ravers at this packed show, the Hartnolls managed to avoid making it feel in any way dated or out of touch. Dance music acquires a certain vintage, but the best of it doesn’t date, and the familiar breakdowns of Belfast or their take on the Doctor Who theme fitted seamlessly alongside tracks from this year’s album Wonky, the first since a five-year hiatus ended in 2009.

It helped, of course, that every song was powered by a surging, primal rhythm and such thick bass lines that the floor vibrated.

It was one of those shows where the communion between artists and audience was unexpectedly profound, and even the brothers seemed taken aback by it, pausing to film the crowd’s reaction and deferring to loud demands for “just one more” after the mighty Chime had appeared to provide a suitable finale.

 

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