Live Review: MSO x Jeff Mills + Derrick May

1 February 2016 | 1:03 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"There’s something beautiful about introducing this orchestral world to ears that may never have experienced anything like this before."

This venue isn't exactly where you'd envisage an onstage Q&A happening. But still, Shaun Keyt (aka Viridan) leads a pre-show discussion between Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Dzijan Emin (MSO arranger-conductor) and Sarah Curro (first violin with the MSO). Curro says orchestral folk know all about remixes, but they call them "reorchestrations". Mills looks so classy in those black velvet slacks. We're reminded that all collaborators are sharing the stage for the first time in this one-night-only performance, which is risky business but never gonna be boring. Both techno maestros hail from Detroit, Mills tells us he's known May since they were teenagers, adding that they used to work at the same radio station, and confesses they're "not sure how this is gonna work out".

As Emin takes his place behind the conductor's stand facing the MSO (there's gotta be about 80 musicians up there), we can only imagine his adrenaline levels are through the roof. Jeff Mills is up first and he sets up stage left, somewhat separate from the orchestra, with his focus glued attentively Emin's way. The March sounds incredible and it's amazing to see excited faces among the orchestra members while playing Mills' invigorating material. We're amazed that pages of the score are still physically turned, thinking that technology would allow for musicians to swipe left on tablets these days. For those new to the whole orchestra thing, strings and brass are always gonna conjure images from James Bond films. There's something beautiful about introducing this orchestral world to ears that may never have experienced anything like this before. Mills looks very pleased with himself up there and rightfully so. The audience are on their feet as soon as The Bells is recognised and there's Melbourne shuffling in the aisles. Sonic Destroyer is true to its title. Mills speaks so eloquently and explains that Utopia is a live world first.

Overheard in interval: "People don't usually get up and dance at the orchestra!"

Act Two: Derrick May. He chooses to get in among the action and takes his position right in the thick of the orchestra beside Emin. We're convinced the conductor is no stranger to Q Bar and the moves he busts while directing the musicians are indicative of that. The expressions on members of the orchestra's faces reflect their extreme concentration and May's tunes appear to be more challenging for them. May plays the piano parts in Strings Of Life and even hearing this tune in Ibiza can't beat the experience of pulling shapes to a full orchestration. And nothing could prepare us for that drop! Not being funny, but actual tears are shed. Whoops and cheers are deafening.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Mills returns to the stage to join May and they present a completely new collaboration as our encore. Strings quiver, all hands are in the air and the heavens open. We're thankfully under cover in the bowl, but nothing could get in the way of this euphoric experience. Emin looks completely spent, but exultant.

While sheltering from the rain at the tram stop, we chat with a couple of musicians from the MSO (their instrument cases a dead giveaway). They are excited to receive our praise even though it's 'just another day in the office' for them, but they admit experiences such as these challenge and stretch their musical prowess.