Orbital, Royal Albert Hall (10 April 2012)

After a hiatus of eight years, dance veterans Orbital have returned with a new album and, to dust off the cobwebs, they’ve been back on the road with a short UK tour which closed with a Tuesday night rendezvous at the Royal Albert Hall. It isn’t your usual setting for throwing some shapes, and the various punters (many of whom appeared to be, shall we say, “of a certain age”) were probably as baffled as the uniformed staff – the former more used to being mashed in a field somewhere and the latter to rather more stately affairs. However, once things got going and the lights from the stage started strobing across the balconies of this venerable auditorium, it all kind of made sense.

Phil and Paul Hartnoll, complete with their trademark spotlight spectacles, took to a raised platform bedecked with equipment and backed by pulsing video screens to kick off a set that was a healthy balance of the new and the old. Halcyon got an early airing, mixing up the ethereal vocals of Kirsty Hawkshaw with a cheeky steal of Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is A Place On Earth (and speaking of unexpected guest appearances, Are We Here? featured a snippet of the Carpenters’ Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft!), Impact gave the audience a workout and there were deserved cheers for Belfast and Chime. The title track to the new album, Wonky (featuring only a sampled appearance from vocalist Lady Leshurr), was a dizzying ride and the most contemporary of the new tracks, the grime-y Beelzedub, really came into its own (ie: an absolute beast) in a live setting.

The Hartnoll brothers were as busy as the crowd in front of them, bobbing from one assorted gizmo to another, and there were enthusiastic thankyous in the rare pauses for breath between tracks. With a few exhausted exceptions, the whole auditorium was on its feet for the entire set, savouring some fine, fine dance music and a chance to experience what was basically a rave in such a remarkable setting.

It was clear from both the set and the new record that the period on ice hasn’t done Orbital any harm and after tonight, with some festivals to look forward to over the summer, along with further UK dates later in the year, the Hartnolls should be warming up nicely.

Richard Pearmain

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