Live Review: Underworld

13 April 2017 | 4:03 pm | Matt O'Neill

"Tonight was a glorious, full-throated dismissal of that notion."

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With their decades of experience and creative reputation, it wouldn't be surprising to see Underworld eventually shift from standard venues and animated crowds to more arts-driven spaces. For some, their announcement of a gig at Sydney Opera House probably seemed to precipitate such a shift — Underworld, and their fans, finally getting old.

Tonight was a glorious, full-throated dismissal of that notion. Equipped with an astounding acoustic space and staggeringly sophisticated lighting rig, Underworld delivered a rich, textured and celebratory set spanning their entire career to a sold-out venue of fully engaged fans. Even in an entirely seated venue, scant few sat for more than a moment of the pair's performance.

In all ways, it's difficult to capture the experience of the pair in full creative flight. On a purely sensory level, their use of lighting stands as arguably the most beautiful and artful of any current live performance artist. Eschewing the rhythmic focus of most dance acts that link lights specifically to musical phrases, Underworld's approach is more painterly and impressionistic.

Each song aired saw the creation of a new arena - whether it was the golden warmth of Two Months Off or the blistering black-and-white freneticism of Kittens. Combined with the clarity and volume of Sydney Opera House's sound set-up and Underworld's own poetic aesthetic, it transformed each production into an overwhelmingly beautiful experience.

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But, those were just the cosmetic details of the performance. Comparatively easy enough to imagine, even to a limited degree. It's relatively easy to recite the facts. The greater challenge is capturing the communal, joyous and aggressively intense sentiment that seemed to engulf the venue throughout the performance.

Across the venue, there were smiles of relief. There were gritted teeth. Eyes clenched close. Tears. Hugs. Celebratory punches in the air. Old men nodding slowly. Arms folded. Deep stares of concentration. Memories. Underworld are often framed as intellectual post-modernists. But, their music is motivated by a deep, deep love - and, tonight, we felt it.