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Orbital, O2 Manchester Apollo

  • Written by  Sacha Ratcliffe


Tonight the Hartnolls took to the stage with a set-up that looked positively minimal when compared to the industrial-scale rigs of previous years. From the outset it was clear that the visual effects had not undergone similar reduction. Displays across the top and bottom of the stage created the illusion of a letterbox, through which the crowd could see the bobbing head-lights of ambient techno’s most accomplished duo.

Opening track, ‘Lush 3-1’ from 1993’s “brown” album, heralded a set that would remain primarily within the pair’s earlier works, but all reworked magnificently to sound as fresh and exciting as they did nearly 25 years ago. In some cases I had to wait for a good few bars before realising which tune was being played. For two hours, including encore, the set-list rarely ventured beyond 1996, keeping well away from the early 2000s and the much-maligned The Altogether

It was great to hear a couple of tracks from 2012’s Wonky, the title track off that album and particularly the encore-closing ‘Where Is It Going?’ Just to ensure the entire evening wasn’t a retrospective, two tunes had their live debuts; ‘Phuk’ and ‘Tiny Foldable Cities’, both proving that there is still plenty of cracking material in the locker. 

Given that the brothers have been producing the finest electronic dance music since 1987, their passion has not waned, even when playing classic tracks like ‘Belfast’, ‘Chime’ and ‘Halcyon’, which they could be forgiven for delivering by rote, but instead they give thumping renditions of these old favourites, bouncing around behind their kit as if they were playing a rave inside the M25, circa 1989.

 The stand-out performance of the night had to be a new mix of ‘Satan’, which was delivered with a face-melting intensity that had everyone in the place going mental. There are rumours of a tour next year and, on the strength of this latest outing I say, bring it on.

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