May 8, 2001
Orbital: Sheffield Octagon Centre
Orbital prove their detractors wrong with a storming set...
When you've been knocking around for over a decade, it's almost inevitable
that you're going to get a bit of a drubbing from hacks eager to write you off as yesterday's men. So the critical consensus on the Hartnoll brother's latest missive 'The Altogether' is that it is a tired, unimaginative beast, and that the accompanying tour will see them merely hawking out ten year old tracks to an ever ageing crowd a la the post-Emerson Underworld.
Happily, as is so often the case, critical consensus is an arse. The album
itself, while possibly a bit undercooked in places, contains as many timeless gems as ever, while the pounding, artfully ravey live set gets this university crowd whipped up into as much of a gurning frenzy as Paul Van Dyk ever does at Gatecrasher down the road.
Perhaps most telling of all is the sheer firepower lying dormant in the new
tracks. True, there are more than a sprinkling of back catalogue diamonds, but with the exception of hardy perennials 'Satan' and 'Impact (The Earth Is Burning)' these merely provide the more reflective moments. So a new, breakbeat injected version of 'Belfast' gives a contemplative counterpoint to the clipped and classy synth-stomping of 'Last Thing', while 'Are We Here' acts as a blissful backdrop to an acid-fried 'Oi!' that gets the (ge)E'd up crowd whooping and hollering like England have just won the World Cup.
And guess what? It gets even better. The 'Weekend Raver' mix of plangent single 'Funny Break (One's Enough)' is an epic, tranced out slice of impossibly euphoric house that would sound just as comfortable in one of Sasha's DJ sets, while that maligned David Gray collaboration, 'Illuminate', is positively revelatory. Just as The Chemical Brothers weave Noel Gallagher's retro vocals on 'Setting Sun' into a psychedelic maelstrom on the live stage, so Gray's vocals are mutilated through a vocoder to create a soaring, giddily rave-tastic stormer that makes even 'Satan' sound a bit muted.
So whereas songs from previous long-player 'The Middle Of Nowhere' are conspicuous by their absence, the polished, almost too sophisticated veneer of the last tour has been replaced by a timeless dancefloor nous that will rock the world of everyone from glo-stick trance kids to ageing ravers. If you still think the pair are clapped out after experiencing this then you are truly missing the point.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday