OK, call me old fashioned, but I just didn’t get it…
The Severed Heads’ ‘live’ show was simply an hour of watching video clips on a modestly large screen whilst the three ‘performers’ stood immobile at stage right, occasionally announcing the titles of pieces they were presenting, although those were often misleading and downright wrong (they did not play Knees Up Mother Brown, for instance!), and the most animated action from the performers was the remote control clicking between songs that enabled the projections to be turned on and off.
Whilst these screened videos were visually colourful and often technically impressive, the fact is, the crowd who had ventured out to come and see the show could just as well have stayed home and watched these on their home TVs or their computers. There was no light show of any substance, and it hardly constituted a ‘live’ performance at all as the music was invariably straitjacketed, constrained by the need to fit so precisely into the visuals.
The music Severed Heads offered up was competent enough, and sometimes arresting, but as dance music, it was just not irresistible enough to get everybody up and dancing, so this performance fell flat. It was far too static.
But then came an epiphany of sorts, because once UK electronic dance music legends Orbital hit the stage, I suddenly did get it…
The screens had now multiplied four-fold, the lighting show was frenetic and incessant, and the projected visuals were atmospheric and not dictatorial in terms of demanding complete subservience from the music.
In addition, the performers, brothers Paul & Phil Hartnoll, were now centre stage, atop an elevated platform, and even in their faceless, constantly silhouetted form, were seen to be actively engaged in playing and dancing and working at getting the crowd fully involved – which they did wonderfully well.
Long term fans cheered as they recognised their favourites and some of the most obvious highlights included There Will Come A Time, P.H.U.K., Wonky, and a powerful version of Satan.
Later, we were also given a terrific version of the classic Doctor Who Theme in an encore of tunes that included many more numbers than their set list initially intended as the band blew the scheduled finish out by some considerable time.
Not that anybody minded the extra time being taken up, as everybody was happy to keep dancing all night if the music was going to keep coming!
Orbital were exciting, uplifting and mesmeric – and genuinely excited to be playing to such an appreciative RCC crowd.
In the end it was worth staying two hours past the advertised finish time to catch the whole show.
Rating: 4 stars
Orbital and Severed Heads played at the RCC at Adelaide University on Sunday 3 March 2019.