When a band isn’t enough: 7 times artists took it to the next level and toured with an orchestra

Legendary DJ Pete Tong is touring Australia with a full orchestra and it triggered us to check in on which other acts across time have dared to take the stage backed in a similar way.

While a band performing is a pretty phenomenal thing to witness when done well, there really is something mind blowing about watching an artist combine their contemporary sound with that of an orchestra.

pete tong ibiza classics orchestra

Tong is coming to Australia to perform at Qudos Bank Arena and Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl, combining his own classic house with a full sized orchestra.

In honour of this outstanding new show, we thought it high time to round up all the acts we can think of who have done some killer live performances backed by an orchestra.

To start us off…


In 1999, Metallica collaborated with the San Francisco Symphony to create their album S&M. Conducted by Michael Keran, the heavy metal band recorded an entire album live with the help of the classical company.

S&M was recorded at the Berkley Community Theatre and was the final record to include bassist Jason Newstead.


Hilltop Hoods

A bit closer to home, hip-hop legends Hilltop Hoods took the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra on the road in 2016 for the Restrung tour. The shows included re-recorded, remixed and remastered tracks from their ARIA #1 albums Walking Under Stars and Drinking From The Sun. In addition to this, the albums were then re-released with the orchestrated additions.

The tour included supports from A.B. Original  and Montaigne.

Sarah Blasko

She’s one of the most revered voices in Australian music, and so when Sarah Blasko announced a full orchestral album and tour in 2012, no one questioned it.  Her album I Awake was originally recorded with The Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra and when it came to her Aussie tour Blasko connected with symphony orchestras in each major city.

Blasko describes the experience of performing with an orchestra akin to “singing with a whale – it feels like this really peaceful, huge beast that you’re trying to stay in with”.  

Blasko also included a series of short films with the album, using tracks including Here, I Awake, and An Oyster, A Pearl.

Flight Facilities

These Aussie electronic legends have had their fair share of experience performing and recording with a full sized orchestra. In 2015 Flight Facilities collaborated with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and then again in 2016 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Clair De Lune is probably their most renowned recording, performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

For their Sydney shows, Flight Facilties performed restructured versions of their hit singles and from 2014 debut LP Down to Earth.


Bonobo has recently taken on a global tour flanked by accompanying symphony orchestras. The tour is in celebration of his most recent album Migration.

Bonobo is known for his experimental, ambient electronica, and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in music today including Rhye, Nick Murphy and Jon Hopkins.

Bonobo has just wrapped up shows in Australia and New Zealand and is stopping off in the UK before taking on the US throughout August and September.



In 2013 Beck wowed us all, taking on David Bowie’s classic Sound and Vision with a full 157 piece orchestra. When given complete creative freedom to reimagine a classic tune, you can trust Beck to have a bit of fun.

“This is my band,” said Beck when introducing the set. “We do weddings and bar mitzvahs.”

Inviting his father David Campbell onstage to conduct, the collection of musicians on stage was incredible. Strings and brass players mixed with two choirs, a yodeler, heavy metal guitarists, xylophones, a mandolin, a man playing a bent saw blade, Chinese percussion, a young producers in glasses bent over vintage electronics, marching band drummers and even samba players.

The show was more than over the top and breathed new life into Bowie’s 1977 hit.


Ben Folds

Ben Folds is a genius. And this has never been more apparent than when he managed to compose an entire song for and orchestra in TEN MINUTES. Performing with The National Symphony Orchestra, Folds and conductor Edwin Outwater developed an entire piece of music using the thematic prompt from an audience member of ‘Spaces designed to be flexible’.

Neither Folds nor the orchestra had any idea what the piece would sound like, yet they managed to pull off the creation in just ten minutes live on stage.

A pretty extraordinary moment to be privy to and one which cemented Folds as one of the great musical minds of our time.



Pete Tong is performing with The Heritage Orchestra in November:

Wednesday 1 November, 2017
Qudos Bank Arena
Sydney, NSW

Friday 3 November, 2017
Sidney Myer Music Bowl
Melbourne, VIC

Head to MJR Presents for tickets.