Orbital, Brixton Academy, London

Acid generation bows out gracefully with a calm farewell
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The Independent Culture

Last night London took its turn to bid farewell to brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll. Orbital's valedictory tour has still to reach Glastonbury and Japan, yet there was a palpable sense of an era drawing to a close.

Last night London took its turn to bid farewell to brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll. Orbital's valedictory tour has still to reach Glastonbury and Japan, yet there was a palpable sense of an era drawing to a close.

From the outset this duo's career has been unorthodox. Drawing on their formative days as young punks they had avoided the trappings of DJ super-stardom, with huge pay packets and celebrity girlfriends. It was fitting that instead of falling out Gallagher-style, the Hartnolls should announce their break-up calmly.

With the same minimum of fuss, Orbital had taken techno out of the clubs and into arenas, festivals and rock fans' record collections.They provided UK acid house with its first hit, "The Blissful Chime", then, inspired by Kraftwerk, they reminded us that electronic music could make for cohesive albums. At the same time, Orbital demonstrated how to take techno on the road, earning respect by playing completely live, without relying on pre-recorded music.This was where their music really took hold, especially their legendary Glasters headline sets in 1994 and 1995.

As the final Portuguese penalty hit the back of David James's net, pubs and bars around Brixton emptied of Orbital's fans. There were both rave veterans and a younger generation of fans. Orbital greeted them with a simple "thank you, thank you", wearing their trademark head-mounted lights that have become icons of rave culture, more so than the brothers themselves. Everyone's disappointment was lost in the 20 giant fluorescent tubes flashing around the stage.

Orbital embarked on a shamelessly crowd-pleasing set based mainly around their early albums. Veering between the hazy warmth of their chill-out tracks and the more menacing full-on techno numbers. The current album Blue was given short shrift, with only two tracks to show from it. Later the epic "One Perfect Sunrise" evoked their earlier "standing in a field at dawn" moments. It was an admission that Orbital have run out of steam. They claimed to have spent too long together in confined spaces, but you have to wonder if the claustrophobia was merely physical. Recent albums have not cut anyone's mustard and the only other track to make last night's set from the past four years was Orbital's cover of the theme from Dr Who.

Their music has always reflected developments in dance music around them, though only those movements with roots in the illegal parties around the M25 reflected in the group's name. While other forms of dance music are thriving, the acid generation is learning to bow out gracefully.

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