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The Orb (live at Electric Brixton)

29 July 2016

The Orb live at Electric BrixtonIn 1991, I waited in anticipation outside the Brixton Fridge (as it was known then) clutching my ticket waiting to see The Orb’s first ever live show, not really knowing quite what to expect. I had bought the double album of The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and had devoured every second of it, its sounds sending me off on some strange cosmic voyage not really hinted at by a band since Tangerine Dream in the 1970s.

As I entered the venue I my brain began to click into its psychedelic gear due to the acid I had swallowed thirty minutes earlier. When the band hit the stage I was in full flight and the music being produced and the visuals sent me on a blissed-out trip to the centre of the Ultraworld while people danced all around me. Could all that magic be recreated quarter of a century later?

The Electric is a different beast to The Fridge (or even The Ace as it was before). The staff are helpful and the place is nicely done out, but it seems somewhat cavernous. It seems like a bigger venue and occasionally can feel a little clinical. Tonight, the hardest thing I’m imbibing is cans of Red Stripe from behind the bar as I move to the front while the place slowly begins to fill up.

The Orb live at Electric Brixton

At 8pm sharp the music begins with a solo set from (Dr) Alex Paterson. The music twists and flows, and dry ice billows around us — but any form of visuals is kept to a minimum as are any lengthy, strong pounding beats; the overall feel is more ambient. Thomas Fehlmann then takes over to do a short set that leans slightly heavier on the dub side of things with some wonderfully enthralling samples.

All of a sudden, spacey visuals hit in and onto the stage walks Youth, resplendent in a white suit. He is joined by System 7’s Miquette Giraudy and ex-Sex Pistols legend Paul Cook, and they launch into the ambient wonder of “Spanish Castles In Space”. The audience erupts into cheers and we are already hitting lunar orbit straight away. Youth plays a large double bass and the music drifts over the audience like a sweet balm on a hot summer’s night. I think many people thought The Orb would play the album in order, but instead the band decide to ease us into the cosmos slowly, so we can find our feet again in among the solar winds.

The Orb live at Electric Brixton

A big cheer greets Steve Hillage‘s arrival onstage as the band hit into “Supernova At The End Of The Universe”. Hillage’s gliss guitar is perfect and transforms the piece into a cosmic wonder on an endless trip around the solar system, taking in all its marvels. By the time “Backside Of The Moon” begins its blissful otherness the Electric is packed to the rafters and becoming like a sweat lodge. Even Mr Hillage has to mop his brow onstage. The set stays fairly ambient until “Perpetual Dawn” gears itself up and the audience begin to dance as the reggae rhythm becomes infectious. “Into The Forth Dimension” and “Star 6 & 7 8 9” take us into the outer regions of space while the visuals of the cockpit of a spacecraft give you a clue as to where this trip is heading.

“A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld” transfixes everyone with its trance pulse rolling rhythm and its Mellotron-sounding choir sounds. The music swirls around you like its been created by some alien race from another planet. Next is the track that gets the loudest roar from the audience: “Little Fluffy Clouds” is a classic anthem of dance music and never fails to get people moving, even if the heat in the venue is beginning to melt them. By this time, the music has been going on for over two hours as the band slip into “Toxygene” and the final track “Assasins/One of These Days”. Its the perfect end to a balmy evening of music.

The Orb live at Electric Brixton

The Orb have always been something special; they have changed as an entity over the years, but their music has always had a connection to their first album in some strange way. Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld stands as a landmark first album; it was and still is influential to many other artists and tonight it was wonderful to bask in its wondrous sounds once more. The evening was a cross between a celebration with a little touch of nostalgia for those heady days of the early Nineties where outer (inner) space exploration could be done with this as your soundtrack.

Was it the same as 25 years ago? In some ways, yes it was; however it was also different — but that also made it special. Time travels further away from that point 25 years ago, so the memories become slightly hazy over time. It was nice to be transported back there for a couple of hours and relive that moment.

-Words: Gary Parsons-
-Pictures: Clare Bevan-

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