Ambient-techno godfathers The Orb prove they're not past it yet...
It’s quite bizarre how something that once sounded so undeniably NOW and of the moment can seemingly so soon become touched with the warm, insidious glow of nostalgia. Welcome, then, to the class of ’89 acid house reunion, as 30-something Spectrum veterans and twenty-something stoner devotees spark up once more to Dr Paterson’s dubby house, like it’s 1992 all over again.
And you know what? It’s fantastic from start to finish. What could have easily turned into a shameless nostalgia-fest in the vein of Underworld‘s post-Emerson live forays is salvaged by a deft balance between much-loved classics and newies, and the demonstrable proof that the geezer’s production skills are as on the money now as they ever were. As he cranks up the sound-system for the first time in over three years with the gargantuan ‘A Mile Lump Of Lard’, the packed-to-the-rafters Concorde can’t help but holler in agreement.
Nonetheless, it’s all a rather more subdued affair than in previous years. Paterson and accomplice Witchman man the decks and EFX, while a lone bass player booms out the rhythms to pupil-dilating oldies like ‘Towers Of Dub’ and ‘The Blue Room’ – a long distance indeed from the pyramids and sky-brightening searchlights of yore.
Somehow, though, the whole is somewhat more charming than it ever was. Freed of the Floydian pretensions that dogged the band throughout the mid-’90s, tonight’s set is a fairly crackling, pulsing voyage through swathes of even newer material than the recently released (but actually over a year old) ‘Cydonia’ album, showing that, contrary to the rumours, The Orb’s muse is still resolutely intact, thank you very much.
True, some might scoff at Paterson’s claims that he actually wants to play smaller venues, rather than just being unable to fill larger ones, but with someone of Dr Alex’s obstreperous and idiosyncratic nature you do actually believe him. As certain big league DJs look ever more embarrassing trying to act as a figurehead for the yout’ while rapidly advancing through their forties, tonight Paterson proved that, in dance music, it is possible to grow old gracefully. It’s a lesson that many could do with learning.