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Pop Music Review

Orb Gives New Meaning to the Term 'Rock Concert'

May 03, 1997|D. JAMES ROMERO

The Orb demonstrated the concept of anti-concert at a packed Mayan Theater downtown Thursday night, letting its electronic ambient music do the talking as the British trio tweaked knobs in the shadows of the stage.

Led by Dr. Alex ("LX") Patterson, the critically acclaimed act worked its magic on a myriad of mysterious computer equipment from within an open white triangle on stage, kicking off what promises to be the biggest concert season for electronic music in the U.S. to date. It was an anti-concert in that the actors were all but hidden and the songs almost always flowed into one another, allowing for little applause or other rock concert histrionics.

All but forgotten were the days of cigarette lighters held high (though the group did perform an encore).

The music was all Orb. Dreamy synths and ominous voices gave off feelings of millennial hope and despair as a groundswell of funky grooves kept the audience buoyant.

The Orb does two things that distinguish it in the oxymoronic realm of electronic performance: Instead of programming aural photocopies of its digital albums, the group improvises its tracks with fantastic, energized results, synchronizing four screens of computer graphics and an array of computer-driven lights. And its members don't prance around on-stage mimicking rock stars. They immerse the audience in music. And the music takes center stage.

Someday we'll look back at the Orb and see a strange, '50s-esque obsession with the future. Or we'll see the roots of 21st century pop performance.

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