Underworld - Live

By liz

Moving in Brilliant Timing
Underworld live at the Kool Haus, Toronto
October 16, 2002

I generally try to avoid sex and music comparisons, as I tend to find the two incomparable. While they both have uses as entertainment (and indeed may be used together to further their entertainment value), the ways which they provide entertainment are so different that it's usually difficult to draw intelligent comparisons. However, I'm fully prepared to make an exception to that self-imposed rule and say that Underworld's show at the Kool Haus last night was like truly amazing sex with a good friend you haven't seen in a long time.

The mood was set in the venue. What little light there was was provided by spotlights tinted blue and aimed at seemingly random spots on the floor, as well as dim neon strip lighting coming from the two bar areas. The smoke machines were already going, casting a slight haze throughout the room. DJ Darren Price was spinning a widely varied set, getting the crowd excited for Underworld to take the stage.

As soon as the final track of Price's set finished, Underworld's remaining members Karl Hyde and Rick Smith who had already been on stage for a good ten minutes prepping their equipment launched into an ethereal rendition of 'Luetin' from this year's "A Hundred Days Off" album. Continuing with the sex/music analogy, this would be light foreplay. Things started to get hot and heavy when the duo dropped the classic 'Dark Train' followed by a pair of floor fillers from the new album, forthcoming single 'Dinosaur Adventure 3D' which is every bit as mental live as the recorded version suggests and previous single 'Two Months Off' which gains that extra oomph live the recorded version seems to be missing. Things calmed down a bit for what turned out to be the final new track for the evening, 'Twist', complete with shredding guitar solo courtesy of Karl.

After 45 minutes or so of foreplay, it was time to get down and dirty as a viscous 'King of Snake', pounding 'Push Upstairs', and brutal 'Pearl's Girl' followed in quick succession, leaving the crowd breathless and begging for more. The true surprise of the evening followed as they pulled seemingly out of nowhere an unbelievable rendition of 1993's classic single 'Dirty Epic' a track they haven't done live in so long Karl had to read the lyrics from a sheet of paper before starting the song. The down-tempo 'Jumbo' followed, giving the crowd a chance to catch their breath while not entirely killing the mood. Things picked up once again for a high energy rendition of 'Cowgirl/Rez' one of the finest singles of the 90's and easily Underworld's crowning achievement, and an almost violent 'Born Slippy.NUXX'. As the ending chords of 'Born Slippy.NUXX' faded out, a clearly exhausted Karl gave the crowd warm thanks, and the two left the stage to huge cheers.

However, the crowd wasn't ready to quit just yet, and apparently neither was the band, as a minute or so later, Rick and Karl took the stage one last time for a relentless run through of 'Moaner' that took the crowd home. After more heartfelt thanks from the boys, they left the stage to another set from Darren Price, which served as a post-concert, or would that be post-coital comedown?

The big question going into this show was could they pull it off? When DJ Darren Emerson who, at least on the surface, single handedly transformed Underworld from a cheesy 80's guitar band into the kings of 90's dance left the group in 2000, it left people wondering of Karl and Rick could stay on top by themselves. While the "A Hundred Days Off" album answers with a definite maybe for every classic Underworld track on the album, there's a piece of underdeveloped filler that their live show answers with a "hell yeah!". Long live the kings.

Review by James Freeman.