You are here

Review: Pete Tong's Ibiza Classics at Manchester Arena

The Heritage Orchestra wallop us with some tunes from the past

We probably spend about half of our lives pining for the past; wishing we could turn back the clock to relive that one incredible night, or winding it back even further to experience a time that came before us. We're bona fide suckers for nostalgia and the belief that everything was better ‘back then', even though we've actually got it pretty good right now. You could tire of this persistent pursuit of what's been and gone if it weren't for the fact that occasionally, something pops up to remind you there were elements of life in the past that would eclipse the present. That's especially true in the case of electronic music and Ibiza, when in the 90s and 00s for instance, both represented a counter culture in full swing, and euphoria was as prevalent on the dancefloor as germs are on the tube. This is precisely why, when Pete Tong announced he was touring his Ibiza Classics show this December, seasoned ravers spat out their dummies in rejoice and made their way like a teeny tiny, delirious army to the nearest participating venue.

On Friday 1 December - what a way to start the festive season - that venue was the Manchester Arena, where Pete Tong was joined by the Heritage Orchestra, conducted by the ever-enthusiastic, head bobbing Jules Buckley. A night of glorious nostalgia was in store, one that took us back to the Ibiza of days gone by when the sun shined 24 hours a day, everyone danced naked and free loving was found on the menu alongside pan con tomate. To mark the occasion, thousands of hedonistic hippies who'd hung up their heels long ago, shunted the kids off to nan and grandad and donned their dancing shoes ready to relive their youth for just one more night, which made for an atmosphere of fairly contagious hysteria.

There's nothing quite like seeing a selection of old school dance classics reinterpreted and performed live by an orchestra - if you don't believe us, watch the London O2 version for yourselves, which was screened live by Be-At.TV. It all kicked off with Fatboy Slim's ‘Right Here Right Now', which moved everyone out of their seats faster than you could say ‘Naughty, naughty, very naughty', in a slightly sinister, The Shaman-like way. From here, they moved through the tunes at a furious rate, covering everything from Orbital, to Daft Punk to Moby, while glow sticks moved through the air below us like snakes on the hunt for iguanas and some people got so overexcited they tumbled head first onto the people in the row below. Good to know this is still acceptable behaviour in your forties. Guest vocalists occasionally dropped into the mix to galvanise more distinctly 90s dance moves from the crowd, with Ella Eyre, Jessie Ware and Brendan Riley all putting their own twist on big tunes from the past. One of the most poignant moments of the night came when Energy 52's ‘Café del Mar' was performed, accompanied by a montage of Ibiza images that left us longing for the island. One Ibiza Spotlight member, who shall remain nameless, had tears strolling down his face. Ah Andrew, ain't you sweet.

As the end approached, Pete Tong revealed a special guest who'd been waiting in the wings. Turned out it wasn't Phil Collins, as someone in the crowd loudly predicted, but the one and only Candi bloody Staton. She's still got some pretty impressive pipes, and her rendition of ‘You Got The Love', which, unbelievably, is celebrating its 30th year, was as memorable as you'd imagine. The orchestra finished with Faithless' ‘Insomnia' - imagine that riff played live by strings, wowzas - before finally bowing out after several encores. Post gig, it was highly entertaining to see happy but rather worse for wear people stumbling out the Arena having relived moments they no doubt thought they'd forgotten forever. Well done Pete Tong, you're a modern-day, even better version of Cher.

WORDS | Abby Lowe PHOTOGRAPHY | James Chapman

Related content