Live Review: Orbital @ Family, Brisbane, 24 February 2010

By Denis Semchenko

Family can be a strange place. Despite this being a school night, a somewhat uneasy and restless vibe is easily palpable as dilated-pupil clientele wander about, while one clearly “under the influence” punter tries to strike up a conversation with me about how it’s going to be “a good night” and later passes by and wonders whether I’m “trying to be cool” as I check my phone for messages. Peaking too early is never fun, dude.

But being a sober non-clubber in a trendy Brisbane dance music venue full of pill-poppers doesn’t mean I’m automatically denied the right to enjoy myself tonight. Loud, insistent techno banging non-stop, it’s nearing midnight by the time UK electronica legends Orbital – aka brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll – enter the stage with their arms aloft and wearing their signature headmounted torches. A massive cheer follows and the floor fills instantly as Out There Somewhere erupts from the venue’s enormous sound system and the retro-futuristic visuals start rolling on the giant screen.

At least eight different synths and innumerable sequencers surrounding them, the head-banging, barefoot Paul looks a bit like a bikie on speed with his tatts and handlebar mo as he relentlessly attacks the mixing desk while his Zelig-like sibling calmly presses the Lemur pad and Macbeth monitor screens. A clutch of harder-edged, IDM-leaning new tracks are nearly as impressive as staples Remind, Satan and Belfast and the improvised on-the-spot sequences peppering them. Pioneering acid house cut and breakthrough single Chime is met with a rabid reception while the subsequent Crime and Knowhere keep the floor moving like a giant centipede.

Titled after an anti-insomnia tranquiliser the Hartnolls’ mother was long addicted to, the timeless trance anthem Halcyon temporarily turns Family into Glastonbury 1994. In an old Orbital tradition, the poignant, mantra-like number incorporates snippets from two uber-cheesy ‘80s classics – Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name and Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is A Place On Earth – before returning to layered-vocals nirvana. The main set winds to a close with One Perfect Sunrise, however the wait for the original Chemical Brothers is brief as they encore with The Box, which still sounds great but somehow plateaus in the energy department, and Dr Who theme. In terms of sheer euphoria (and earphoria), Kraftwerk at Global Gathering 2008 tonight may not quite be, but it’s still an exhilarating run through the last twenty years of electronic music.