With the Orbital brothers, Paul and Phil Hartnoll, still having ties in Brighton, a big old party at Brighton Racecourse, on top of Whitehawk Hill, was more than enough to get the city excited. What made this show doubly as exciting, was that this tour was to celebrate the release of their ninth studio album, Monsters Exist, giving us a chance to hear the new material for the first time ahead of its September 2018 release.
Born out of the rave culture that was rife all over the country during the late 80s and 90s, Orbital took their name from Greater London’s orbital motorway (M25) which was so vital to the early rave scene and party network in the South East of Britain. Along with The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Faithless, The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim, Orbital became pioneers of the British dance music scene which dominated UK charts throughout the 90s – culminating in a headline set at Glastonbury Festival in 1994 when they became renowned for a spectacular audio/visual show.
Whereas last year’s Human League show at the racecourse was called off due to high winds, this year we were treated to a hot summer’s evening which felt like a trip down memory lane – a few thousand punters dancing in a field with thoughts only for the music. There was no doubt a ‘well’ aged rave generation revisiting their party years, but with this brought an incredibly jubilant and exuberant atmosphere with people splitting their time between basking in the sun and getting down to a sound that defined a generation.
Music started early on the Friday evening, with a DJ set from Steve Mac and System 7 acting as the perfect gift for those who managed to get away from work early. Gentleman’s Dub Club were up next and produced a thrilling performance that got people well and truly in the mood for a party. There is no surprise why the eight-piece band are festival favourites for so many and, once again, they didn’t disappoint, being the perfect soundtrack for the last of the sunny rays that hit the stage. Heavy dub basslines and classic feel-good reggae, mixed with elements of modern electronica, made sure everyone was breaking a sweat and skanking hard, all politely enforced by brilliant singer/ringleader Jonathan Scratchley. Next up was a DJ set by legends of the game, Faithless. With the odd track of theirs thrown in for good measure, the set mainly consisted of big room house. Banger after banger pleased the field and kept the temperatures high, making sure everyone was loose and limber for Orbital’s headline slot.
Walking on stage, the Hartnoll brothers stood surrounded by their array of electronic gadgetry and donned their famed headtorch attire. Roars belted out and the music began, transporting the crowd back to a time when Orbital’s music was ever present on the airwaves and in the clubs around the UK. It was a much-varied set that spanned the entirety of their resounding 29-year career in music, starting in an acid house area that hypnotised the enchanted crowd. Swaying, spinning, whirling and twirling rippled through the crowd as all shapes were being made to every beat, glitch and rumble that came from the speaker. Orbital are pioneers of British dance music and they know how to control a crowd – building up the intensity and then playing a bliss-filled ambient track, before doing it all again to create this ongoing cycle of euphoria.
Disappointment did come in the form of a poor visual show. Being one of the most revered live acts around does set the bar high, however, the lack of a stunning light show, an impressive gallery of screens or any lasers for that matter, did feel a bit like we had been given half a show for the price of the standard ticket. Nevertheless, when you are hearing tunes like ‘Chime’, ‘Belfast’ and ‘Halcyon’ blare out and people all around you are dancing with their hands in the air with incredible smiles on their faces, disappointment is quickly forgotten.