When released late last year, Pete Tong’s 'Classic House' album (the second one, 'Ibiza Classics', drops 1 December) garnered the acclaimed music tastemaker his first ever UK #1 album.
Melding electronica with orchestral arrangements is akin to two musical worlds colliding, and not without its risks. But 2015’s one-off show at London’s Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC’s famed Proms festival proved a runaway success.
So, after a string of sold-out UK shows and more than 200,000 sales of the first album, Tong dragged the 65-piece Heritage Orchestra and its conductor Jules Buckley to Australia last week, touching down at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl (3 November) two days after an appearance in Sydney and ahead of a headline performance at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl later this week.
Those who braved a chilly Melbourne evening witnessed an amazing performance, as Tong and Buckley’s brilliant orchestra combined for something special. From the soaring string intro of opener 'Right Here, Right Now' by Fatboy Slim, those seated were on their feet spilling into the aisles and dancing along.
Positioned above the orchestra, Tong laid down the ‘bones’ of original tunes synonymous with the White Isle allowing Buckley to weave in live arrangements that, without ever challenging the integrity of the original productions, added depth and extra grunt throughout.
The playlist, with a few exceptions, was firmly rooted in the sounds of '80s, '90s and early noughties classic electronica, with vocals supplied by a fantastic group of guests.
Frankie Knuckles’ mid '80s classic 'Your Love' was sublime, while ATB’s 1999 single '9PM (Til I Come)' sat comfortably alongside Moby’s 'Porcelain', which served as a dreamy interlude between more energetic fare.
It’s difficult to pick a highlight, but American vocalist Brendan Riley’s take on Daft Punk’s euphoric 'One More Time' was right up there, as was a rousing rendition of Faithless’ anthem 'Insomnia', which built to a frenzied finish as Tong looped the outro, unleashing the fury of the string and horn sections.
The Shapeshifters’ 'Lola’s Theme' nearly brought the house down, while Sneaky Sound System’s Connie Mitchell deserves praise for her goosebump-inducing rendition of Candi Staton’s 'You Got The Love'.
Thandi Phoenix, meanwhile, proved she’s one to watch with a rendition of Jax Jones’ 2016 hit 'You Don’t Know Me'; it’s not quite in the realms of a classic (yet), but nonetheless impressed.
Tong’s set-list would’ve induced a touch of nostalgia for the slightly older crowd.
That said, the mix of young and not so young getting down to such classic tunes – including to newer ones like Disclosure’s 2012 remix of Jessie Ware’s 'Runnin’ – demonstrated the enduring strength of the genre.
Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra are no newcomers to such hybrid orchestral shows having previously worked with the likes of Björk, Aphex Twin, Goldie, Massive Attack and Giorgio Moroder.
This experience shows; they are a well-oiled outfit that, combined with Tong, created a multi-layered, immersive performance not soon to be forgotten.