Event Photography Leeds - Orbital

On Wednesday 5th April 2023 I headed out with my camera and lenses to cover a live music event. It has been a while since I have undertaken an events photography photo brief but being a huge fan of Orbital and 90’s rave culture what a great opportunity to create some eye catching images and witness a fantastic live music performance at the same time. The assignment was for Leeds Living as an online piece. The press pass was all signed off and access agreed due to good links with the bands Public Relations Team and team at Leeds o2 Academy who are always great. 

I had not met the writer and reviewer for the night … Dan Tomlinson. These are his words … and mighty fine assessment of the evening too. 

Leeds Living Extract … https://leedsliving.co.uk/music-dance/orbital-at-02-academy-5-april-2023/

Dan Tomlinson cuts his teeth on the live electronic genre – with who better than Orbital? 

Now, I’m not sure if this is something that I must confess, but I am absolutely the last kind of person you would ever expect to see at a rave. It’s nothing personal – I’ve never been too into that kind of music. I am more often than not that one guy with a beer in his hand, wearing flannel and jeans, simply trying to vibe and bop up and down – which I do quite well. So, you might be wondering how I ended up here, on a wet and whimsical Wednesday night in downtown Leeds City Centre. Well, I’ll tell you exactly, bluntly and genuinely – I fancied a bit of a mad one.

And also, why not? I always fancied myself a bit of a Louis Theroux. Filling in at the last minute for a colleague, I arrived at the O2 Academy to find several folk of varied ages sprinkled around. I was surprised at how quiet things were. I reached one of the many bars provided and simply stood around, waiting for the show to begin. Radically, and quickly, it did begin – in a big way.

The O2 Academy Leeds has seen quite a storied history. From its humble beginnings known as Leeds Coliseum, its doors were opened in 1885 by Prince Albert. Holding circus shows, political conferences and circus performances, it would later accommodate a cinema and a television studio in the early decades of the 20thcentury. It went through many transformations in names, styles and renovations, before settling in as part of the Academy Music Group in 2007. As most O2 Academy venues have witnessed, the building has seen artists of many different varieties come through its doors, from Robbie Williams to the Kaiser Chiefs. In the 1990s, it played host to the Stone Roses, Blur and Primal Scream in their heydays.

As I made my way inside, the supporting act Manami was already performing. Japanese-born but raised in Bristol, her house and techno beats would provide the perfect mood-setting ambience for the evening to follow. Shyly, she remained focused intently on her craft – the turntables before her providing the ample instruments she needed to perform fluidly with precise rhythm and technique. I heard second-hand buzz from crowd members surrounding me, not only intrigued by her mixes but also mesmerised and entranced in the beats.

Again, I can not stress the sheer amount of diversity in the room on this weekday night. People really like their rave, I could tell. I saw them all: university students adorned in glow-in-the-dark facepaint, glitter and tassles; family members taking relatives to what I could only imagine was their first, or one of their first gigs; couples dating, bonding over their favourite musicians; and in a personal highlight for me – an elderly man boogying his way around the front of the room with a walking stick. You live hard, you die hard. That’s what it’s all about, man.

Little did I know this would be just the beginning – Manami finished, and not a pint at the bar later, it was time for the main event.

It would be doing them a disservice to consider Orbital seasoned veterans of the genre. Since recording their first track on their father’s tape deck in 1989, the brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll, from Otford in Kent, had carved out a masterful career for themselves. With sporadic breaks in-between, they had reigned among the all-time greats of their kind, for the better part of the past thirty-four years. Even when they weren’t together as one artist, they were playing shows solo. Critically and commercially successful, they made their way from electro and punk rock influences into that oftechno, trance and breakbeat. While Manami provided excellent vibes designed to set the stage for what was to come, I had little idea what to expect as the full lightshow broke out for Orbital’s ascent to the stage. Both brothers sporting torchlights on their heads to see their handiwork beneath them, the wild lights fit perfectly with the masterful symphony they would play. For the next two hours, they had the now packed room in their thrall as they played some of their very best to their adoring fans.This was an unbelievable way to break the ice I had with electronic music and see it through to its end. It was a one of a kind experience, but then again I’m sure each of their shows is drastically unique by design, and by quality.

Whether by yourself, or with friends or family, this is an experience not to be missed. You might be a first-time listener or an avid fan, but just be there!

Orbital are in the final leg of a wild UK tour to promote their tenth album Optical Delusion, with remaining gigs in Nottingham 7 April and Brighton 8 April. Find out more on their website, at www.orbitalofficial.com.

Manami continues to impress the scene with appearances on her home front in Bristol’s Boiler Room on April 29, as well internationally in Italy, Wales and Croatia. The world is her oyster, as her summer looks set to mesmerise thousands. You can find her mixes at www.soundcloud.com/manami-b.

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