Cream take over the Anglican Cathedral for their annual orchestral night, Getintothis’ Banjo takes it all in.
Dance music has had a long, strange journey to get to the present day.
The progression from illegal warehouse raves with two turntables to country’s largest cathedral with a full orchestra and choir is a quantum leap that no other musical genre has made. And Cream itself has been no stranger to controversy in the past, but here we are with perhaps a new genre in dance music – gentrified house.
In truth, this strain of orchestral house has been with us for a while now, and this is the third successive annual classical weekend at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. The idea of combining cutting edge dance music with something as old fashioned and establishment as an orchestra seemed an odd one at first. But given the expansive sweep and depth of a lot of house music it should perhaps come as no surprise that the two went together so well.
Over the last few years, the novelty value of seeing DJs and orchestras has worn off. Alongside the Cream Classical nights there is Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra taking Hacienda Classical to the top of the album charts and to headline slots at the summer’s festivals.
So, if you take away the novelty value or any lingering surprise at these two disciplines coming together, what have you got? Well, what you get is a well presented set of nostalgia heavy dance classics presented in a new way. And that sounds like a good enough thing.
As you might expect, the audience here is a group of people that crosses many ages. At one point, a casual look around the audience showed two ladies of a certain age seemingly done up in Sunday best, all good coats and severe spectacles, stood next to a girl dressed in a neon tutu, with angel wing tattoos and torn tights. For some reason this image sticks with me as one that sums up the appeal of dance music in 2018.
We have those who grew up in the acid house boom of the late 80s/early 90s and, probably, their children. The constant reinvention of dance music genres have allowed it to have a shelf life way beyond most people’s expectations.
To start tonight’s show, we have an introduction from one time Cream resident, Seb Fontaine. Soon enough, the orchestra file on stage, followed by DJs K Klass, a choir and various other musicians. From the first sweeping note, the difference orchestra bring to the sound is striking. They are playing the vast majority of the music, driving the songs, with the more technological side of things relegated to back up.
The Ibiza Classics theme soon makes its presence felt, as the likes of Spiller’s Groovejet, Paul Van Dyk’s For an Angel and Delirium’s Silence are played. The audience proves rather fickle at the front of the stage, as the dancers flock in for the more upbeat, but head elsewhere for the more chilled likes of Moby’s Porcelain. Groove Armada‘s Superstylin’ proves to be the hit of the night, prompting a sudden rush to the front and much frenzied dancing.
Songs such as Adagio for Strings and Robert Miles’ Children lend themselves very naturally to strings, whereas others are altered quite considerably by the added orchestra. There seems to be some discord on some tracks, but with so many musicians on stage that is perhaps understandable.
The light show and the Anglican itself add a huge amount to the night’s success. The cathedral is simply a stunning building, and the lasers and lights set around the building create a superb spectacle. The whole show must have taken hours to set up and those responsible have our admiration.
Tonight’s conductor Tim Crooks seems to be having the time of his life, turning to the audience and trying to get them to clap along, dancing and smiling through the night. While this may make you wonder how vital the role of conductor is if he can spend so much time playing to the crowd, it is hard to deny him a rare moment of behaving like a rock star.
The suspense of wondering whether we are going to get an encore is somewhat taken away by the fact that when Crooks walks off to thunderous applause, the orchestra stay seated read for their next song. We imagine the logistics of all the musicians trying to leave the stage only to troop back on again a few moments later is just too much. So, sure enough, Tim the conductor walk back on stage for another 15 minutes of epic orchestral house.
It is odd to come to a Cream night and to be leaving the venue before 11.00. But that is all part of this orchestral house scene – a few drinks, a bit of a dance and home before the kids. For the younger and more energetic amongst us, there is an afterparty where K Klass will again be playing, but the majority of people seem to be heading home, their raving done for another year.
While things have undoubtedly changed for Dance Music, it still inspires passion in its audience and it still has the capacity to change and to grow with its audience. If Dance proves to be the last major musical movement, it has at least proven itself to be able to evolve.
It may have been a strange journey over the years, but it has been a good one. And, as ever, the Cream rises to the top.
Photos by Getintothis’ Kevin Barrett