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Live Review: Ministry Of Sound Orchestrated

15 August 2017 | 1:18 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"The essential tinkling glockenspiel throughout Massive Attack's 'Unfinished Sympathy' is so off that we place fingers firmly in ears."

As what's billed as a 50-piece Ministry Of Sound Orchestra take positions behind their respective music stands, DJ Simon Lewicki settles in behind his decks, which are emblazoned with the music brand's famous crown-on-globe logo. Lewicki dances up a storm back there from the get-go, although the audience takes a little longer to bust out of their chairs. A few lone dancers must've preloaded on pingers, but it takes Kings Of Tomorrow's Finally to propel us to our feet, some even testing the patience of bouncers by peacocking/dancing up and down the aisles.

There's no doubt that 'orchestrating' dance music is all the rage at the moment: Hacienda Classical opened Glastonbury's Pyramid stage this year (complete with Bez from Happy Mondays dancing on stage!), last year we saw the stunning marriage of MSO x Jeff Mills + Derrick May who brought Sidney Myer Music Bowl to their feet in mass euphoria and Pete Tong & The Heritage Orchestra will bring Ibiza Classics to this same stage later in 2017. However, this version of the theme, Ministry Of Sound Orchestrated, definitely needs more rehearsal to stand up to against its aforementioned competition.  

The vocoder effect during a Daft Punk song just sounds weird, vocalists forget when to come back in after dance breaks and the essential tinkling glockenspiel throughout Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy is so off that we place fingers firmly in ears. We could use a few less shoutouts by Lewicki - there are a lot of breaks between songs - and possibly a straight mix akin to an actual DJ set would work better.

Recognising the dance classics as they come in is certainly a hoot, kinda like a game of Name That Tune: Insomnia by Faithless (during which the vocalist trusted with imparting the menacing spoken word line, "I can't get. No. Sleep," looks embarrassed), the intergalactic Shooting Star by Bag Raiders, Moloko's sultry Sing It Back, Strings Of Life (of course!), Delerium's Silence - they're all masterful selections.

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Now to this evening's special guest vocalists, Owl Eyes (aka Brooke Addamo, who often makes guest appearances with Flight Facilities these days) and Daniel Merriweather who we haven't seen performing in quite some time. Addamo is welcomed to the stage to channel Sophie Ellis-Bextor on Spiller's Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) and her movement around the stage looks stilted, as if she hasn't yet mastered the choreography. When Merriweather hits the stage, he's wearing what looks like printed pyjamas. His take on Armand Van Helden's You Don't Know Me should be glorious, but instead he takes too much liberty with the melody and even appears to forget the lyrics. During his next allocated banger, Merriweather can't resist the urge to get political and throws in an out of context Manus Island reference, which is kinda baffling.

The evening is divided into two halves and there's an intermission after about 40 minutes. The Ministry Of Sound Orchestra's string section is impeccable and Lionel Towers' arrangements are inspired throughout. A whoop goes up in appreciation of the inclusion of Children by the late Robert Miles. Evermore's It's Too Late attracts an enthusiastic singalong ("Monday morning, hesitate/I can't get out of BED!"), but the vocalist gifted with this choon goes waaaaaay too theatrical with his delivery and it comes off like one of The Voice's more OTT battles. During a glorious classical instrumental (sans doof to showcase the orchestra) a punter charges out of bounds and into one of the side-stage boxes where he appears to be snapchatting while punters cheer him on.

But the night really belongs to the vocalist who sings Florence & The Machine's You Got The Love to close. Her joyous performance is flawless and she definitely does Florence Welch proud when effortlessly climbing octaves.

Many in the house seem hesitant to go home and relieve their babysitters. A spontaneous Sexual Healing singalong breaks out when someone makes use of the piano in Hamer Hall's foyer and something tells us security will have a tough time getting rid of these persistent revellers.