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Orbital Bring The Jams At First New York Shows In Five Years

Brotherly U.K. techno duo performed their early '90s 'Green' and 'Brown' albums in full for the first time
Orbital's Phil and Paul Hartnoll (photo: Shirlaine Forrest / WireImage).

U.K. techno duo Orbital has rarely played live in North America in the past decade, and until last night (March 22) hadn’t set foot in New York in five-plus years. The group is on somewhat of a hot streak leading up to their appearances at the Coachella festival next month, and last night, they surveyed their influential catalog at two shows with distinct, satisfying approaches.

Shrouded in colored lights, the Hartnoll siblings were in full early ’90s throwback mode at the first gig, performing their self-titled 1991 “green” and 1993 “brown” albums in their entirety for the first time. Those projects sport classic house singles such as “Chime” and “Halycon,” the latter of which was performed without its trademark samples of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” and Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.”

Several of the tracks had never been played live before, a reminder of the breadth of Orbital’s 35-year discography. The set closed with a punishing rendition of the Butthole Surfers-sampling “Satan,” as projections of ominous, apocalyptic imagery tempered the dance party ever so briefly.

Orbital returned for the late show with a set focused on material from their brand new album Optical Delusion, highlighted by the cheekily named, major-key groover “Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song)” and the big beat stomp of the Sleaford Mods-featuring “Dirty Rat.” This time, the Bon Jovi and Carlisle clips were restored on “Halcyon” (cue older Brits jumping up and down), while a snippet of a Greta Thunberg speech helped update The Brown Album‘s “Impact (The Earth Is Burning)” with modern urgency.

With the bright lights on their headlamps contrasting often psychedelic imagery on the screen behind them, the Hartnolls demonstrated their unique ability to unite disparate strands of subgenres such as IDM, ambient house and breakbeat, all of it powerful enough to elevate the mind and enliven the body. Next up, Orbital will perform tonight in Chicago and Sunday at Miami’s Ultra festival, and after Coachella will bring the Green/Brown album performances to the U.K. for nine shows beginning April 24 in Exeter.

As part of its recent return to longtime label London Records, the group has begun reissuing their early 12-inch EPs, the first of which is “Chime.” The Green Album will also be reissued in numerous deluxe configurations on April 19, led by a new version of 1991’s “Belfast” rechristened as “Tonight in Belfast” with fresh contributions from David Holmes and DJ Helen.