Orbital are famed for their live performances, with their 1994 Glastonbury set being cited as a ground-breaking set that introduced dance music to a much wider audience. Their 90s rave classics such as ‘Chime’ and ‘Halcyon and On and On’ cemented the Hartnoll brothers as giants in electronic music, traversing rolling techno, trance and break-beat.
Throughout the 2000s they’ve split up and got back together again several times. The brothers reunited again in 2017, putting out Monsters Exist (2018), 30 Something (2022) and now Optical Delusion. Released in February, their most recent LP is peppered with a host of collaborators including Sleaford Mods and references to the recently escaped COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Orbital infused Manchester’s Albert Hall with the sound of 90s rave, playing tracks from throughout their 30-year discography alongside material from their new album. The crowd, mainly composed of now grown up 90s ravers, was warmed by Manami as they anticipated Orbital’s arrival.
Although a shame that Manami wasn’t positioned on the mainstage for the crowd to engage with, she did an excellent job at curating the atmosphere from her decks up on the balcony. The stage instead was filled with a whole host of kit including a Roland 303, Prophet 6, Waldorf Wave and more awaiting Orbital’s entrance.
Kicking off the show with ‘Smiley’ from their 2022 album 30 Something, the duo entered the stage adorned with headtorch headbands. These headbands, worn at most of their performances, gave them an alien appearance from a distance. Bobbing about like space caterpillars behind their racks of equipment, Orbital started off with newer tracks from Optical Delusion and 2012’s Wonky.
‘Dirty Rat’ featuring Sleaford Mods from their most recent release was met with cheers from the crowd, proving Orbital’s new tracks are enjoyed just as much as their classics. Behind the duo, a screen projected excellently curated graphics throughout the gig. Starting with outer space images of planets, and fittingly orbits for their first couple of tracks, the graphics changed to that of an apocalypse to accompany the track ‘Satan’. Hellscapes featuring political figures such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson with the caption ‘‘All of Them Witches’’ flashed up on the screen to accompany the heavy speed music of the track.
Halfway through the set, Orbital dropped the cult-classic the crowd had been anticipating, ‘Halcyon and On and On’. Transfixing the audience with its angelic tones, this track was exceptional in a live context, especially surrounded by those with such an appreciation of it. Orbital followed this anthemic track with a playful remix of ‘If You Wanna Be My Lover’ by the Spice Girls, with a timely drop on the “zig-a-zig ah” lyric.
Reaching the end of the gig, Orbital’s mumbles of thanks after performing ‘Chime’ and ‘Impact’ were made intelligible by the cheering from the crowd. As soon as the brothers exited the stage, stomping started for an encore. The duo returned to the stage with the 90s intergalactic ‘Out There Somewhere?’ Parts 1 and 2 from their album In Sides.
Spinning around on stage and miming hugs to the audience, it came as no surprise when one of the brothers announced it had been the best gig of the year so far. When they finally exited, the crowd was left to digest the outer space atmosphere they had just experienced. One enamoured fan, who had seen the duo numerous times before, said it was the best time he’d seen them, with the energy of the crowd making it phenomenal.
Orbital gave a great performance to a sold out venue of devoted fans, re-living 90s rave for one night at Albert Hall. The venue was a great size for the gig, making for a much for intimate performance than would have been possible at a venue like Mayfield Depot or O2 Victoria Warehouse.
You can stream Optical Delusion below: