Orbital at Brixton Academy live review

'Not in the least bit wonky'

Orbital at Brixton Academy live review

Photographer: Jim StewartVirtual Festivals on 31 December 2020

Returning to a scene they helped define, Orbital have swaggered, headlights blazing, back into our thoughts in the last few years, the culmination of their re-rise to the top being a gig at the Albert Hall this year. New album ('Wonky'), new soundtrack ('Pusher') and new single ('Where is it Going?') are indicative not of a late flurry of activity for the aging Brighton-based brothers, but the opening up of an entirely new chapter altogether.

Tonight in the always splendid Brixton Academy, Orbital play the last gig of their 2012 tour and pull none of their impressive array of punches – sometimes bands should just stick to what people have paid £30 to hear. The opener, 'One Big Moment' is greeted by an ecstatic, expectant roar it’s pure Orbital, beautiful and powerful. Their back catalogue is littered with ‘hits’ and they do not hold them in reserve, Halcyon gets an early airing, the elegiac opening waves sending Brixton into a trance-like state, like a field of sunflowers in time lapse, the faces sway to the undeniable masterpiece of their ‘Brown album’. “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful” says a man standing next to us.

This is far from a laurel-resting rundown of 20 years of success, the brothers are clearly restless and feel the need to improvise around some surprising sound clashes, so we get Orbital vs The Carpenters which mixes 'Are We Here?' with the Carpenters version of 'Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft' – a bouncing karaoke ball on the screen behind inducing everyone to sing the ridiculous lyrics. Later we get Orbital Vs Belinda Carlisle as they sample 'Heaven is a Place on Earth' – again forcing audience participation but the crowd are, thankfully, less enthusiastic about chirping along with Belinda – nice try though boys, it’s good to know your pop sensibilities are still firmly intact.

As impressive as any of the tunes is the lightshow, searing lasers sweep the high academy ceiling and a series of diamond-shaped metal grills are the focus for a series of tune-specific visual treats. The mighty Satan is accompanied by images of war and politicians to make us all think while we are losing it and Doctor Who is simply awesome.

It says something about the current state of dance music and perhaps the average age of the audience in Brixton tonight, but there is one track everyone wants. 'Chime', first recorded by the Hartnolls on their dads tape deck in 1989, is greeted at the end of the encore like a returning warrior and for 6 glorious mins we all wallow shamelessly in nostalgia for raves gone by. What a tune.

Orbital work hard for every stomping foot and raised arm tonight, god bless ‘em, and they turn Brixton Academy into a visual and sonic palace of exuberance. Now don’t go away again boys, you are obviously needed here.

By Jon Wright


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