The Orb in the North on their re-scheduled 30th Birthday tour

(a year late, I believe!) 

Alan Dearling shares images and words from some of those who witnessed the Mighty Orb in action.

Rammed gig. Thanks to Waka for the invite and all the team at the Lion for their hard work and inspiration…

Here is a selection of pics from quite early on in the evening at the Golden Lion in Todmorden. Looking at The Orb official site, I think that what we saw was OSS: On Sum Shit. This is Alex Paterson with his younger Northern mate, Fil Le Gonidec. It’s the latest version of The Orb Sound System, which seems to have the same initials: OSS!  Matt Hum worked the decks before and after The Orb.


The latest Orb album remixed:

I saw The Orb at Glastonbury Festival in 1992 and 1993. This was no longer the original two-person version founded by Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty (who left to form The KLF with Bill Drummond). I don’t even know who played, but by then Youth (Martin Glover), Thrash and Jah Wobble had at times joined Paterson at the Orb helm along with Kris Weston and Steve Hillage. Many others jumped on board the space ship Orb over the years. The Orb kick-started the ambient trance scene with albums like ‘U.F.Orb’ and thrilling live shows.

For mostly health reasons, I had to leave the gig early. So I’ve asked friends who stayed, jigged, swayed, grooved and enjoyed The Orb to share their thoughts and comments on another slice of Orb ‘history’.

Many thanks and respect to Keith, Andy and Will.

Keith B.

“Back in 1992 Operation Desert Storm was dominating the headlines, but rave culture, hot air balloons, crop circles and little fluffy clouds provided me with a much needed distraction. And The Orb were there to provide an ambient post-rave comfort blanket for those attending raves like Fantazia, Dreamscape and in my case heading to the now legendary, Shelley’s most weekends. The Golden Lion has a reputation for putting on some amazing acts and this was one of the most anticipated for a long time. I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of nostalgic journeys with acts I loved 30 years ago, but this was something that could not be missed. 

On entry to the familiar surroundings of the Lion the venue was already three quarters full and the bar busy with a friendly crowd of people getting ready for a great night. DJ Matt Hum was spinning some great tunes and the anticipation was building. It was a nice change not to be the solitary old raver, with the majority of the attendant throng being middle aged with a smattering of youth. 

The venue was now full and things get kicked off.  The crowd are instantly into it, with the decks and effects set up pumping out some familiar tunes. Instantly one thing stuck out and took me back to those heady days of the early ‘90s, when there were no people stood behind their phones recording the gig, but just a bunch of people living in the moment and loving it. The night is flying by, propelled by beats so familiar it’s hard to fathom how they’re three decades old. One other old skool moment of note was Alex’s use of CDs instead of a memory card. I have no idea how he keeps track of what is what. 

Things came to an end far too quickly and I think everyone in the place wished this would have been held on a Saturday night and that it went on for much much longer. The Orb delivered on all levels without just banging out all of the hits, they took me on a journey back to the ‘90s and left me wanting more.” 

Andy H.

“Circa 1992 – in one of the cavernous auditoria at Manchester academy I found myself at a gig.

While not advertised as a sit-down gig, that’s what it became – air thick with smoke of varying legality – trippy projections of the moon landings, and so on.


A thundering sound system dispensed an exquisite blend of slow dubby techno, and reggae – with a generous sprinkling of ethereal auditory ‘bits and bobs’ … a signature if you will of the Orb.

To this day it ranks among the top musical events of my life.

30 years later to my astounded disbelief – I learnt the same outfit would be performing in the Golden Lion pub – Todmorden, a small town nestling in the bleak but oh-so-beautiful Pennine moors.

Rarely have I anticipated a gig with such relish – I was almost nervous. 

Did they disappoint? No – far from it. The magic had only matured – like a fine wine. 

I found myself smiling in a way I hadn’t done since the days of the Hacienda. Nostalgia bias? Maybe… but the attendees – old and young alike – seemed just as immersed and enthralled with the spectacle as I was. And make no mistake – the Orb is a spectacle like no other.”

Will B.

“Though familiar with The Orb’s impressive catalogue, not to mention the work of the many dissonant offshoots that have sprouted and given life to various twisted sounds over the decades, I had never seen them live up to this point. The borough bothering bass and crystalline melodies that floated through the small gaps between the cross-generational tangle of limbs soon made me question why. An alchemic blend of taught electronica and dub reggae inspired fusion unfurled over an epic two hour set that chicaned through their vast oeuvre warping and re-shaping classics with compelling new material. From the eclectic sounds to the broad spectrum of people attending this special evening exemplifies why the best gigs give a starring role to contrast and togetherness.”

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