Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC - Friday, May 9, 1997
By Gregory Gorgoil
I arrived around 11:45 and caught the end of a DJ set, I believe it was the Dr. Alex Patterson. In the downstairs lounge there was some pretty good drum and bass. But that is not really my thing so let's go back up stairs. The Hammerstein Ballroom gives the appearance of being an opera house without the orchestra seats. Two mezzanines skirt the dance floor, a huge proscenium frames the stage and an angelic mural graces the domed ceiling. Two types of tickets were sold for the event, general admission (dance floor) and mezzanine. If you got a mezzanine ticket (which cost about $5 more) you couldn't get down to the dance floor or the downstairs room. This was an immediate turn off and gave the event the feel of a rock concert, not a rave.
The Orb's performance was spectacular. They have definitely moved away from their freeflowing chill-out music of a few years ago. Their set consisted of old favorites mixed with new hard driving beats. It would have been great if there was enough room to let loose and dance. Just to give you an idea, it sounded like they were using intros from "adventures beyond the ultraworld" and "u.f.orb", I don't think I recognized anything from "Orbvs Terrarvm" although I could be wrong. And of course they played plenty of their new material. Like I said, the performance was great. Although the music was not really continuos, opposed to the last time I saw them. Instead of playing two hours straight, the set was divided almost like an album: intro, hard driving beat middle, outro, interlude, crowd cheers, intro...etc.
I will reiterate that this was not a rave. It wasn't even really a part. This was a full on concert. It was a throw back to the days when I used to go see the Dead, or a mini lollapalooza. The crowd was just about as diverse, there were plenty of ravers, in their baggies, pierced faces and bleached hair; a few tie-dies represented; a number of shirtless guys, very reminiscent of Phish Heads; as always in New York, you get some thirty and forty somethings that are not quite sure what they should be doing: dancing? shmoozing? To each his own.
Another thing that disturbed me was the major growth in ego present in this show. The last Orb show I went to, almost two years ago, the performers were on risers somewhere but the attention was not really focused on them, everybody was just dancing or sitting around chilling. At this show, the Orb were perched up on a stage with a projections and a light show emanating from their direction. The entire audience was oriented towards the stage, fists in the air cheering; I was waiting for someone to shout "Stairway!".
As for the after hours, it was about 30 blocks away and they wanted $10, so I didn't go.
Reading back over this review, I guess it sounds a little negative. To quote Leyon Meyer, a musicologist, "The meaning of music...comes from the listeners expectations." I guess I was expecting, or hoping, for something more like a rave, what I got was a really good concert.