Orbital; Live At Glastonbury 1994-2004
When you think of classic Glastonbury gigs, what springs to mind? Radiohead premiering 'OK Computer' in 1997? Macca knocking out the hits in 2004?
Maybe even Arctic Monkeys this year, if you were close enough to actually hear anything or were watching it on TV from the comfort of your own home. But for some people, the group who define Glastonbury more than any other are Orbital.
Over a 10-year period starting in the mid-’90s and ending with one of their final ever shows in 2004, Phil and Paul Hartnoll, two hard-raving brothers with a fondness for wearing flashlights on their bald heads, made Glastonbury their spiritual home by playing at Worthy Farm five times in a decade. This two-CD compilation captures the highlights of those performances.
Their first, on the NME Stage in 1994, is the stuff of legend. Headlining the Friday night just a few weeks after completing their breakthrough third album ‘Snivilisation’ (although no-one had heard that record yet) they stole not just the show, but the entire festival. Their set was made even the more remarkable because in the real world this was exactly the kind of thing the terrified Conservative government – with the Criminal Justice Bill – were trying to stamp out; thousands of pilled-up ravers, in a field in the middle of nowhere, losing their minds to ‘repetitive beats’. The man most impressed was Michael Eavis – so much so that from word of mouth alone he promoted them to the Pyramid Stage the following year alongside Pulp – pushing Orbital, and dance music, into the mainstream. And ‘Live At Glastonbury…”s best moments come from these two shows – ‘Are We Here?”s primitive samples, the anthemic ‘Impact (The Earth Is Burning)’ and ‘Attached’ – like fellow electronic pioneers Kraftwerk before them, they created songs of their time, but which, years later, in no way sound dated.
If their sets in the ’90s were career-defining then, as with their recorded output, as the century drew to a close and we all obsessed over guitars again, their return in 2002 and 2004 was more predictable. As a result the second disc suffers slightly. ‘The Girl With The Sun In Her Head’ and ‘Funny Break (Weekend Ravers)’, both recorded in 2002, are workmanlike shadows of their golden period. But, just when interest wanes, they drop the monstrous ‘Chime’ – their first single, which sounds as beautiful today as when they first recorded it back in 1989.
So here’s to Orbital, as much a part of the Glastonbury experience as wandering through the Green Fields at five in the morning out of your head, or stumbling across Lost Vagueness and finding Keith Allen naked,
mud wrestling with a wizard. Thanks for the memories…