Live Review: Underworld

18 April 2017 | 1:02 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"We feel as if every loose grain of pinger that's ever been trapped inside our muscles releases and Underworld's tunes make us gurn sans Class As."

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As we enter State Theatre, the venue sound system is being appropriately warmed up with a bit of pukka techno. We spy a guy wearing a T-shirt that reads "Enjoy The Extra Inches" (huh?) and look forward to seeing the middle-aged ragers in the house dusting off some vintage dance moves. The house lights dim and we're immediately on our feet as soon as we clock Cardiff's dynamic duo: Underworld. "Mmm... Skyscraper" illuminates on the stage's back wall to introduce their opener (Mmm... Skyscraper I Love You) and this is a running theme for the evening with their tracklist unveiled, lovingly, one song at a time. There's astonishing sonic clarity and a descending sound sparkles like wind chimes gracefully hitting the deck. We have flashbacks to Big Day Out's Boiler Room and singer Karl Hyde's dance moves cut through the space like an enthusiastic teenager showing off. Every beat is punctuated by Hyde's flailing arms or slinky movements; he's a vessel for the music. 

Rick Smith looks a bit like a long-haired Alan Partridge days, but we are truly in awe of the sounds he produces up there. Is it too early to break into a Melbourne Shuffle? Many of Underworld's songs gradually fade out and this always happens way too soon for our liking. We feel as if every loose grain of pinger that's been trapped inside muscles releases and Underworld's tunes are enough to make you gurn minus the Class As. To dance isn't a choice, it's a necessity. Juanita? Oh my lord! As the tracks roll out, we're constantly delighted, 'I forgot about this one!' The bass throbs during I Exhale rumble up through State Theatre's burgundy carpet. And Smith's deadpan "Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah..." BVs are everything. We're pretty sure this venue's speakers are negotiating some of these frequencies for the first time. "Have a good time" - we need no encouragement via If Rah's lyrics.

The lighting design is inspired, retro but never cheesy. At times Hyde is illuminated red while everything around him remains white-lit, his dancing form magnified on the giant screen behind the pair. Dancing to Underworld is like meditation. If your mate tries to crack a chat, they'll cop the old, 'I can't hear you!' routine. Dark & Long (Dark Train) totally takes us there and by now sweat rivulets are flowing freely down faces and bodies. And we dare ya to try to simultaneously dance and punctuate those synths stabs with your arms. Near-impossible, huh? But not for Hyde. There's next to no banter, 'cause that would break the spell. The music takes hold. Two Months Off? Yes, please! "You bring light in" - it's almost too much euphoria for these old tickers to handle.

OMG, Cups! Underworld are so much more than just Born Slippy and we feel ashamed for having momentarily forgotten about this wistful banger. There's so much beauty to be found in dance music and we thoroughly enjoy the movement investigations this track inspires. The familiar I Feel Love-inspired King Of Snake incorporates a sneaky sporadic hissing sound and are these State Theatre speakers surround sound? Enter the aural sunrise that is Jumbo ("I need sugar..."). The audience doesn't applaud, they roar with arms reaching skyward. Moaner is dark, dense, robotic and sinister with shimmering, relentless hi-hats and we feel as if our sanity's slipping away. By now we're a bit parched. Underworld recreate the '90s rave scene so effectively (on a Wednesday night, no less) that we actually look around for a handsome stranger to ask for a sip from their water bottle (Meningococcal alert).  

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Looking around the stage space, Hyde tells us he suspects it's been set up to try and kill him, adding maybe that's "a figment of my deranged mentality". Of course they close with Born Slippy and we're all, "Shouting/Lager lager lager/Shouting/Mega mega white thing!" Thank you, Underworld, for reminding this scribe why bands were almost entirely abandoned throughout the '90s in favour of catching live dance acts such as this.