cone magazine

REVIEW: Outlook Orchestra 2017

For Outlook festival to chart their audacious decade of sound system partying, it was only fair to try to create something novel – bespoke in fact…

How to blend a melting pot of dance genre, MC’S, musicians, and cultures and conceptualise it into a 100 min essential mix?  This means up-scaling, massively.  Sound-system controls joined, and melded into orchestral acoustics, at Outlook festival’s 10th birthday celebration last week, on Thursday. Southbank’s Royal Festival hall opened its doors to skanker, shuffler-er, raver and grime-ist, to see the mashup of symphony Orchestra vs Sound-System.

Led by Submotion Orchestra’s head, Tommy Evans and trumpeter/arranger Matt Roberts, the live orchestra sailed the crowd through snippets and swathes of Grime, murkier Dubstep and livelier Jungle classics, arranged for the ensemble of skilled musicians. Lights, sounds, good auras and family vibes helped to prop the event up. Where it may have lacked in delivery, and at times flow, Outlook’s orchestra certainly made up it for in novelty, hearing the drum/bass accents amplified by a symphonic live ensemble. Veteran junglist General Levy stole the spotlight toasting the crowd with a perfect rendition of Incredible. Ruby Wood delivered delicate vocals at times, flimsy though ethereal nonetheless. Real respect to the musicians who executed a brand new arrangement of SO’s exquisite classic All yours, plus a newly improvised version of Mala’s Alicia which had the crowd simmer down, as ears were serenaded. A golden moment.

Here is a sliced overview of our highs and lows of last Thursday.


Perfectly curated line-up: Outlook crew toggled through a fiery line-up of Sound-system heavyweights, Grime chief Flowdan pounded bullet bars on Skeng. Congo Natty alongside vocalists Nanci and Phoebe revved up the BPM with their jungle riddim of Get Ready. Then to end the night with some exaltation Outlook introduced the Roots reggae legend, the dazzling Dawn Penn who warmed the stage with nostalgia. The sweet, soulful croons of “No, No, No, you don’t love me” were still intoxicating. 

Volcanic acoustics and technical nous from the skilled musicians: There’s one thing to be able to perform in the Royal Festival hall, there’s another being able to perform underground dance with a 20 piece live orchestra. Full, melodic eruptive sounds, that stirred you belly and moved your feet. It was an energising and impressive performance from the whole crew.

The relaxed vibes of the event hosts and their organisers: We all had carefully assigned seats, but after a while no one remained in them. Instead, the more excitable revellers made themselves a people pit directly underneath the stage to catch the heady surges of lights and theatrics. There was freedom to roam around and make yourselves comfortable nearer to stage and many made sure to.

Lows: Not much to fault, Just a couple of gripes…

It ended a little too abruptly: Almost as if a plug had been pulled. The event had promised a close at 10:30pm, but we were wrapped up our heavy-duty coats, and ready to the brace the icy winds by about 10:10pm. Not what you’d expect from event organisers that spent the last 10 years throwing some of the heaviest raves in its Croatian hometown. But I guess for the sake of British values (and its licensing restrictions) it had to be this way.

Standard high brow music institution charges an arm and a leg for a pint kind of dealings: Though to be fair, there wasn’t much difference in it than getting a pint in a rather fancy pub down in Covent Garden. It certainly wasn’t Pula prices, that’s for sure.

All in all: 20 piece ensemble of horns, strings drum and bass made for rich melodies and rhythmic oomph that boomed and flooded through the arena. It was awe-inspiring, at times a little discordant, a tad too short but damn was it moreish.

Words by Leah Abraham 


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