Gig Review: Orbital at Rock City

Words: Lawrence Poole
Photos: Louisa Mae Tomson
Wednesday 01 May 2024
reading time: min, words

Legendary electronic music pioneers Orbital returned to Rock City to perform an epic show and prove that — even after 35 years — they've got what it takes ...

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"Nottingham you’ve been amazing, we were here last year and you were great then too, we hadn’t been here for years before then - I don’t quite know why, but we’ll be back soon after that!"

It’s fair to say the Hartnoll brothers were impressed with the energy and engagement a packed Rock City crowd gave back and it wasn’t hard to see why as the years melted away.

Meanwhile, as babysitters surfed Netflix accounts in homes across the city, on Talbot Street it was 1991 again and a full on sweaty rave was unfolding without the whistles and fluorescent glow sticks from back in the day. In town to celebrate the Kent electronic veterans’ first two albums, 1991’s Green album and 1994’s follow-up, Brown, it proved a compelling feast for the senses. 

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Kicking off with opener, The Moebius, it wasn’t long before the duo’s trademark headlights were orchestrating an expectant crowd en masse as they guided them skilfully through its tracklisting. Each track was lapped up more voraciously than the last and by time standouts Chime and Belfast were aired, Paul and Phil had everyone exactly where they wanted them.

If the first half was a top football team playing well and nicking an early lead before controlling possession, the second was the equivalent of its forwards running riot and scoring a shedload.

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Separated by an intermission where drinks were replenished and the slalom to the toilets was made (although no mini ice cream pots with spoons secreted neatly in the lid on sale alas), to say Orbital returned and hit the ground running would be an understatement.

Everything seemed to ramp up, from the quality of the visuals to the bass-iness of the sound and strobing of the lights - it was a cornucopia of stimulation that left you breathless at times.

One of the advantages of being able to breathe new life into material three decades old is embracing all the technological advances that weren’t around then and it didn’t half add to the experience.

Impact (The Earth Is Burning) and Halcyon + On + On were the highlights, before the Hartnolls departed only to return and play a four-strong encore featuring a Spice Girls’ reworking, the brutal social commentary of Dirty Rat (featuring Notts’ own Jason Williamson) and Satan, which took potshots at the despots, deviants and political shamen of the world.

More than three hours after taking to the stage, and now in their mid-50s, the pair have lost none of their epic abilities to destroy a live venue aurally and visually – even on a damp Sunday night.

Orbital performed at Rock City on 28th April 2024.


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