The Ministry of Sound Orchestrated concept has proven a big hit. Classic dance music anthems played with a full orchestra backing and some great vocalists is just a winning combination. Along with a great vibe from a happy, excitable, up-for-a-dance crowd and the majestic setting in King’s Park on a balmy summer’s night, it was a great night all round.
The concept was brought to life by Creative Director, Aussie DJ and industry veteran Groove Terminator, Musical Director Adam Sofo and conductor Guy Noble, who have toured this show nationally a few times now. They came to Perth for the first time in March this year, enlisting Perth Symphony Orchestra. After the resounding success, they were back by popular demand, with a slightly tweaked line up of songs and singers – featuring many familiar tracks featured on the famous Ministry of Sound double CD compilations that were so popular in the 90s and 00s.
Legendary old skool Perth DJ and producer Greg Packer plays disco edits these days under the alias Dr Packer. The good doctor spun some laidback beats and funky grooves providing the soundtrack as punters picnicked, with a good assortment of food and drinks on offer. Though one minor gripe was selling wine bottles and then being told you can’t take it into the front section with you.
As Packer wound up his set, members of Perth Symphony Orchestra slowly made their way onto the stage, and the crowd started to buzz and spill into the front standing area over the pond. An array of backing singers gathered to the left of stage, and the rest of the orchestra took their places – so many strings… the full classical suite, even harp and bassoon. A range of modern instrumentalists, electric keyboards and guitars, stood in front of the orchestra, and conductor Guy Noble was to the right, while Groove Terminator took his position behind the decks high at the back atop a podium emblazoned with the famous Ministry of Sound logo.
Everything was finally in place, and after a moment of anticipatory silence, they kicked off. Slowly various instruments rose to the fore and came together – immediately striking you with the amazing organic sound of a full orchestra, while GT fired off classic samples like Chuck Roberts voice “I am the creator!”
As the familiar staccato melody of Faithless’ Insomnia kicked in, it drew cheers from the crowd, as they realised exactly what they were in store for. Eric Prydz’ Pjanoo really lifted the vibe and got the crowd moving with its charging beat driven home by a wall of strings singing in unison.
While there were some famous vocalists to come, the backing singers were impressive in their own right, some of them stepping forward to sing lead on various tracks, such as the diva who delivered The Shapeshifters’ hit Lola’s Theme complete with horns.
One of the male vocalists stepped forward and really got things going singing Daft Punk’s One More Time, and as the beat kicked in the crowd erupted. As you looked around the beautiful natural amphitheatre it was a wonderful sight – a sea of dancing bodies and happy faces bathed in coloured lights, arms punching the sky, singing along.
The big star vocalist of this tour was a real scoop – the one and only Crystal Waters was in the house! The legendary singer took the stage as they launched into her 1991 classic Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless) aka the “La-da-dee la-dee-da” song. What a tune, and Waters voice was in fine form. She seemed to be enjoying herself too, grooving around the stage in her black outfit and white leather jacket.
World famous Australian vocalist Sam Sparro came out sporting a bizarre but cool black military outfit with a beret and some kind of utility vest, to sing Armand Van Helden’s classic You Don’t Know Me.
Moloko’s 1998 hit Sing It Back saw special guest UK vocalist Alison Limerick take the stage to deliver a smooth, soulful take. All the aging ravers loved Underworld’s Two Months Off – its triumphant, stabbing strings seemingly custom made for an orchestra. And another old classic in Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams sounded more amazing and dramatic than ever.
After a well-earned intermission, the crowd and the orchestra were back for more, starting things on a softer, more sombre note with a couple incredibly beautiful classics – Moby’s Porcelain and Massive Attack’s Unfinished Symphony, which of course sounded amazing.
As you knew he would, Sam Sparro came back out (in a different outfit) to deliver a great version of his breakthrough hit Black and Gold.
It really was a well put together show. The song selection, the variety of vocalists, and the subtle use of synths combined with the amazing orchestra, was all on point.
Crystal Waters was back for a spirited version of Destination Calabria by Italian producer Alex Gaudino – the international smash hit that shot Waters back into the spotlight in 2007.
Of course the tour’s namesake tune – Derrick May’s seminal 1987 track Strings of Life made an appearance, sounding just like the classical piece that it is.
Again, as with last time, a soaring highlight of the night was William Orbit’s Adagio For Strings (based on the famous classical piece by Samuel Barber from the 1930s), arguably one of the most emotional pieces ever written. It really was the perfect example of electronic and orchestral fusion – as the strings rose GT got on the mic to hype the crowd much like an old school MC, before the synth kicked in and the strobe lights and drums exploded. A real ‘hands in the air’ moment.
Laurent Garnier’s The Man With The Red Face also lent itself well to orchestral interpretation – with a trumpeter making up for lack of sax.
Another shining highlight near the end was Delerium’s epic anthem Silence, sung famously by Sarah McLachlan originally – the power of the soaring strings really took it to the next level!
A brilliant night all round, celebrating some of the greatest dance tunes of all time, recreated in majestic orchestral glory. A good portion of the people here tonight had probably been to the last concert, and brought friends along this time. Such was the love and appreciation of the performance, you get the feeling they could put it on again next year and everyone would come again.
Photos by Esteban Rodoni