PETE TONG WITH JULES BUCKLEY & THE ESSENTIAL ORCHESTRA + LIZZIE CURIOUS – BRIGHTON CENTRE 29.11.23
I’ve always enjoyed the music selections and vocal tones of Dartford lad, Pete Tong (MBE don’t you know!) Let’s face it, the DJ, broadcaster and global dance music aficionado is an absolute legend and yet this evening is strangely my debut encounter with him live in the flesh. One could state that up until tonight, it had “All gone Pete Tong”!
Of late, Pete has expanded his famed ‘Essential Selection’ and ‘Essential Mix’ to now open up the possibilities by combining the juxtaposition of club cuts with classical music, thus on 25th November 2016, after having released around 42 dance compilations albums, he dropped the 17 track 68 minute ‘Classic House’ album with Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra, and this reached No.1 on the UK Albums Chart, marking Pete’s first ever No.1 album. He had in one swoop managed to expand his fanbase by bringing in fans from the two opposing dance and classical music worlds, as bears witness this evening in the Brighton Centre with folk’s ages raging from those I could see from circa 15 years old to 75 years old. The venue appears to be sold out, so around 4,450 folk are “in da house” for some musical enlightenment across the 100 minute 28 song set.
At 8:54pm and (by my reckoning) the 52 members of the Essential Orchestra grace us with their presence and at 9pm on the dot, the house lights and pumping dance music on the PA is extinguished, a minute later the live spectacle begins. The players are on multi-layer platforms so that we (almost) see all of them. There is an eight stair central gap in the orchestra, where the range of live singers mainly operate from. Above them is a long platform where Pete Tong is based. Not only does he have his Pioneer DJ decks, but also comes equipped with Roland drumpads, which are occasionally given a tap by Pete. There are the usual musical instruments found in an orchestra, but with the addition of various keyboards including Nord Stage 3 and Sequential OB-6 Analogue Synth. In addition to this there is a trio of mainstay vocalist who are are American-born British singer Vula Malinga who has sang lead vocals on Basement Jaxx tunes as well as working with other artists; London based Los Angeles born Brendan Reilly who has performed with Disclosure, Quincy Jones, and the aforementioned Basement Jaxx; and British born Sherelle ‘ShezAr’ McKenzie who has appeared alongside Wretch 32 for his live shows and also collaborated with Lab, Wretch, Devlin and Ed Sheeran on ‘Meanest Man’. Interestingly her brother is Timothy Lee McKenzie aka Labrinth. There are cameramen located in the photographers pit so that they can add the live images on the two large screens that flank either side of the stage. Above the orchestra to the rear of the stage there is a large screen which plays accompanying Ibiza themed videos. I also note that to the rear of the hall there are no less than three banks of sound and lighting desks, which is rather impressive.
A majority of the tunes are presented in a megamix style with some longer than others. They commence with the brief intro ‘The Medusa’ which segues into ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’ (Snap! cover) with Vula Malinga on lead vocals and then onto the footie anthem ‘Freed From Desire’ (Gala cover) which sees ShezAr switch lead vocal duty with Vula. Clearly the punters are up for it tonight with the standing crowd bopping along nicely and many rising from their seats upstairs. The atmosphere is as you would expect, joyous. Vula and ShezAr share lead vocals for their rendition of Todd Terry’s ‘Something Goin’ On’, after which we are served ‘Make Luv’ (Room 5 feat. Oliver Cheatham) which sees Brendan take his first lead vocal role. ShezAr is back on lead vocals for ‘The Weekend’ (Michael Gray ft Roll Deep cover), after which Brendan takes the lead on ‘I’m Not Alone’ (Calvin Harris cover). The orchestra are giving a great account of themselves and at times whilst watching Pete go about his business and looking around the arena at the other punters, I seem to momentarily forget that a majority of the sound I am listening to is actually being played by the orchestra, but I guess that’s the whole point.
Some Ibiza instrumentals follow in the form of their take on Robert Miles ‘Children’ and
ATB’s ‘9 PM (Till I Come)’ and for this tune we get our first taste of the lazers which blast out bright beams of white light out above the standing punters. This certainly added to the atmosphere and was very welcomed by myself, however, ordinarily I would have been agog with these, but having witnessed The Prodigy playing live here just nine days ago, I must state that their lighting was on another level (Review HERE). Pete addressed the crowd for the first time stating “Good evening Brighton. It’s good to be back in Brighton” and added that has been going to Ibiza since 1987. Next up was a mere few seconds of the intro to their take on Moby’s classic ‘Go’, which I really love and would have preferred the full version.
It’s here that the team is joined by the first of four special guest vocalists on selected numbers. This being British born Uzoechi Osisioma “Uzo” Emenike aka MNEK, who sings lead vocals for tune eleven (‘Ready For Your Love’ by Gorgon City) and whose writing credits include none other than Zara Larsson, Little Mix, Dua Lipa, Sugababes, Clean Bandit, Craig David, Christina Aguilera, Becky Hill, Selena Gomez, Years & Years, Kylie Minogue, Beyoncé, and Madonna. The second guest vocalist is London born Jemma Victoria Cooke aka Jem Cooke who first arrives for the following tune (selection twelve, ‘Heat Rising’ the new single by Pete Tong, Jem Cooke, Jules Buckley and she has released material with CamelPhat amongst others. Tune thirteen ‘Toca’s Miracle’ (by Fragma) signalled the arrival of Dublin born Yasmine Byrne aka Jazzy who has had four hits on the UK Singles Chart, ‘Make Me Feel Good’ and ‘Don’t Stop Just Yet’ with Belters Only and with her own two solo hits ‘Giving Me’ and ‘Feel It’. The four hits charted at No.4, No.84, No.3 and No.35 respectively and interestingly she is the first Irish woman to reach No.1 on Spotify. The final special guest vocalist was brought on for the penultimate number, we shall see who that is shortly.
Vula is back on lead vocals for ‘Horny’ (Mousse T. feat. Hot ‘n’ Juicy cover) and is replaced by the return of Jazzy for (‘It Goes Like) Nanana’ with Jazzy (Peggy Gou cover), after which ShezAr was lead on ‘The Rhythm Of The Night’ (Corona cover). Next the orchestra’s tuba (largest and lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass family) player takes centre stage for ‘Kernkraft 400’ (Zombie Nation cover), which is the first tuba lead I’ve ever witnessed. He was good at it and it was loud, but it did remind me of a Bavarian “oompah” band. Things took a major upturn with the tune of the night for me, this being Faithless’ ‘Insomnia’, which was a great rendition and signalled the return of the lazers. Pete then introduces Jules Buckley who has been conducting the orchestra and he takes to the mic and requests that we all crouch down and then almost instantly jump up again. This is now an often used trick, but never fails to increase the vibe of the room. Their take on ‘Starlight’ by The Supermen Lovers was the next selection and was followed by ‘You Don’t Know Me’ (Armand Van Helden featuring Duane Harden cover), and this had Brandon back on lead vocals.
Choice twenty-one was their version of ‘Friday’ (Riton x Nightcrawlers featuring Mufasa & Hypeman (Dopamine re-edit)) which seemed another decent selection judging by the crowd reaction. Pete then asked us if we knew the next tune, which was Crystal Waters’ ‘Gypsy Woman (La Da Dee)’. After this they launched into the one song more than any other Ibiza anthem that I seriously wanted to hear, System F’s ‘Into The Blue’, although it might feel like sacrilege in having a go and trying to cover the perfect song, sadly this was the case and for me didn’t live up to my hype. They signed off the main set with, as far as I can tell, Binary Finary’s ‘1999 (Kaycee Remix)’ and the absolute classic Energy 52’s ‘Café Del Mar (Three ‘n One Remix)’, which saw the lazers making another appearance.
At 10:23pm Pete and the singers vacated the stage, the orchestra remained in place, and thus a three song encore was to be had. ‘For An Angel’ by Paul Van Dyk being the first selection, followed by Swedish House Mafia ft. John Martin cover of the 2012 UK No.1 single ‘Don’t You Worry Child’, which actually saw John Martin grace the stage as the fourth and final guest vocalist. Pete said that John had flown in from Stockholm and he was rewarded with a huge applause and the lazers were in action again. They saw the night out with ‘Feel The Love’ (Rudimental cover) which saw all of the singers returning to the stage half way through. Everyone took their bows afterwards and the punters really showed their appreciation and at 10:41pm they were done.
I am pleased to have finally opened up my Pete Tong live account and enjoyed the show, but there were still many Ibiza classics which I wish that I had heard instead of around half the tunes. If Pete wants some guidance selections for the next tour, then I will be at the head of the queue.
Pete Tong With Jules Buckley & The Essential Orchestra setlist:
‘The Medusa (Intro)’
‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’ (Snap! cover)
‘Freed From Desire’ (Gala cover)
‘Something Goin’ On’ (Todd Terry cover)
‘Make Luv’ (Room 5 feat. Oliver Cheatham)
‘The Weekend’ (Michael Gray ft Roll Deep cover)
‘I’m Not Alone’ (Calvin Harris cover)
‘Children’ (Robert Miles cover)
‘9 PM (Till I Come)’ (ATB cover)
‘Go’ (Moby cover) (intro only)
‘Ready For Your Love’ with MNEK (Gorgon City cover)
‘Heat Rising’ with Jem Cooke (Pete Tong, Jem Cooke, Jules Buckley tune)
‘Toca’s Miracle’ with Jazzy (Fragma cover)
‘Horny’ (Mousse T. feat. Hot ‘n’ Juicy cover)
(‘It Goes Like) Nanana’ with Jazzy (Peggy Gou cover)
‘The Rhythm Of The Night’ (Corona cover)
‘Kernkraft 400’ (Zombie Nation cover)
‘Insomnia’ (Faithless cover)
‘Starlight’ (The Supermen Lovers cover)
‘You Don’t Know Me’ (Armand Van Helden featuring Duane Harden cover)
‘Friday’ (Riton x Nightcrawlers featuring Mufasa & Hypeman (Dopamine re-edit) cover)
‘Gypsy Woman (La Da Dee)’ (Crystal Waters cover)
‘Out Of The Blue’ (System F cover)
‘1999 (Kaycee Remix)’ (Binary Finary cover)
‘Café Del Mar (Three ‘n One Remix)’ (Energy 52 cover)
‘For An Angel’ (Paul Van Dyk cover)
‘Don’t You Worry Child’ (Swedish House Mafia ft. John Martin cover)
‘Feel The Love’ (Rudimental cover)
Support this evening came from renowned house music producer and Groove Cruise resident DJ Lizzie Curious who is well known for her electrifying DJ sets and unique ‘Curious Energy’ that captivates audiences worldwide. Having been handpicked to support Fatboy Slim at several shows, her career highlights also include a residency at the world’s biggest club ‘Privilege’ (in Ibiza), and over a decade of crowd-enthusing performances across the US & Europe, including the legendary Ministry of Sound and her cherished DJ residency onboard the world’s largest floating dance music festival ‘Groove Cruise!’
With two Billboard No.1 hits under her belt, and her label Curious Energy Records making waves, Lizzie’s dance floor bangers are supported by many top-tier artists, including Mark Knight, BBC R1’s Sarah Story, Todd Terry, David Penn and LP Giobbi. Her tracks regularly receive airplay on Gaydio, Kiss FM, Select FM, BBC Introducing and more. This year, Lizzie made history as the first artist to perform a live DJ set (of her own tunes!) on her local BBC Introducing show. With her contagious passion and good vibes always shining through and tonight was no exception as the bangers kept many punters away from the bars and into the arena.