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Gig review: Hacienda Classical at First Direct Arena, Leeds

The Hacienda Classical at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Conor Griffin
The Hacienda Classical at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Conor Griffin
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Bodies heave. Sirens blare. Beats thud. Out of the side-stage darkness looms Bez, not just once but twice, to shake a pair of maracas at a sharp-suited conductor wielding a baton.

There’s an air of debauched nostalgia that hangs around Leeds’s First Direct Arena; close your eyes for a moment and you truly could be transported a quarter-century back in time.

The Hacienda Classical at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Conor Griffin

The Hacienda Classical at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Conor Griffin

It’s been almost three years since Hacienda Classical – the brainchild of esteemed disc jockeys Mike Pickering and Graeme Park – was first announced to the world, and since then, it has only gone from strength to strength.

The concept of bolting on a chamber orchestra to the hedonistic rave anthems of the Hacienda nightclub’s heyday, where the pair cut their teeth, wasn’t strictly as unique as a concept when it emerged in 2015; Radio 1 had just held their Ibiza Prom at the Royal Albert Hall with Pete Tong.

But this collaboration between Pickering, Park and the Manchester Camerata comes with the dual distinction of capturing the arguable zeitgeist of the British dance scene and becoming something of a cultural mainstay in its own right. You don’t open the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury for any old reason, after all.

This return to Yorkshire may start a little slow – but before long, Hacienda Classical hits full stride, particular with the arrival of a full-bore Givin’ It Up, swelling over a feelgood groove and delivered with powerhouse panache vocals courtesy of Yvonne Shelton. Much of the heavy lifting falls to her and fellow singers Rae Hall and Melanie Williams; with few of the special guest cameos associated with this tour, such as ex-New Order bassist Peter Hook, present and correct, it is down to the trio to provide the big moments.

They mostly manage admirably; Hall works her way mid-show through a throbbing run of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, You Used to Hold Me and I Feel Love that sparks select pandemonium throughout.

Park himself, dressed in a kilt, emerges from behind the darks to upstage them at one point, growling his way through a funk-laden Rock the Casbah and Blue Monday, his sporran swishing from side to side.

By the time Shelton belts out Ride on Time at the close, dashed with symphonic swagger, sweaty euphoria is vey much the order of the night.

The Hacienda, it seems, still has life in it yet.