Though the ticket only says Meat Beat Manifesto, this tour was in fact a great triple bill of Meat Beat, Orbital, and Ultramarine. Though I was less of a fan of Orbital at the time and more into Ultramarine, I came out of this show with a great appreciation for Orbital's live sound. I remember Ultramarine being really low key, sitting down I think, and just about what I expected from the band that was making mostly pastoral ambient type stuff nearly a decade before it would become really popular.
Orbital was so technically adept and I was so much of a gearhead at this point that I was fascinated with how they performed. I watched the lights on the MMT-8 Sequencer flash in sequence as different patterns repeated and evolved and I could really see exactly how the music was coming together in real time. One guy basically ran the sequences and played some synths while the other one primarily mixed at a giant mixing console. I saw Orbital a few times after this and they never really did anything much different--but it always worked! For me, a budding 16 year old musician who was still trying to figure out how to perform electronic music live, watching Orbital was a huge lesson. I remember that I wanted to run out and buy one of those sequencers because I saw how organic it could make a live set.
I think most of what Orbital did can be accomplished with a laptop or two these days, but because of the nature of the laptop interface, new 16 year old hopefuls are never going to get that same kind of experience I had. Laptop performing almost always has that 'man behind the curtain' sense of magic (or trickery) to it and that's one of the reasons that I think people who aren't into computer music have a hard time accepting laptop performers. With Orbital, anyone could walk in and see that they were doing SOMETHING. It wouldn't have been immediately obvious that one box controlled another and then fed sound into another, but with all the knob spinning and key pressing and button mashing and head bobbing, the whole thing better approximated the spectacle of a live band than most other electronic shows I had seen.
Meat Beat was great of course, but it was around this time that they started veering away from the heavier, lyrical songs that I loved and more into the instrumental jams that I wasn't so sure about. It took me a long time to warm up to that Meat Beat, and there are still some tracks off of some of their later records that I can't get into. In 1992, Meat Beat was courting the rave scene, or maybe more accurately, there was no way to make electronic dance music (that wasn't gloomy and obviously aimed at the industrial kids) without getting dragged into the rave scene around that time. When Subliminal Sandwich would eventually be released, bands like the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy and others would reference Meat Beat Manifesto and suddenly every electronica compilation or video game with a big beat soundtrack would have a Meat Beat track or remix on it, and years later people would name-drop Meat Beat in reviews or interviews as if it were a band everyone knew of--I think the big push for all of that started around the time of this tour.
As an interesting aside, on the first Larvae tour of the US, we played a show in New York and when the club promoter and I got to talking, I found out (or rather he offered up) that he had been the promoter of this tour in 1992. What a small world. I didn't know much of what to say to that other than to tell him that I was at that show in Tampa, loved it, and that I even bought a t-shirt. I still have the shirt!