Show Review: Underworld at The Fox Oakland 8/7/09

by Dakin Hardwick on August 10, 2009

thanks to ario_j for providing this photo from Flickr.

thanks to ario_j for providing this photo from Flickr.

Underworld formed in 1986, yet are often considered part of the mid-90’s electronica craze that also included acts like Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, and Crystal Method, among others.  I’ve always felt  that this was a bit of an unfair distinction, only because they are a bit different from the rest. (No disrespect to any of the aforementioned acts, they are all respectable within their own genres.) I feel that they are a pop group that incorporates elements of house, trance and industrial music.  They also pay much closer regard to lyrics, oftentimes telling complete stories within their songs.

This show marks the first time I have ever seen Underworld, yet I consider 2000’s Everything, Everything to be one of the greatest live records of all time.  I do admit, my expectations were rather high.  I want the show to have the same intensity of that record, although the group has been through a few line-up changes since then, so I didn’t know if they would still have that momentum.

They opened with “Dark & Long” off of their 1994 breakthrough record dubnobasswithmyheadman, most famous for being the record that their biggest hit “Born Slippy NUXX” was recorded for, but inevitably left off of.  They gave the song a bit of a slower build up than on record, which helped kick up the intensity a notch, and segueing directly into an especially aggressive performance of “Cowgirl,” most famous for it’s inclusion in the movie “The Matrix.”

One of the things that separates Underworld from the rest of the electronic bands is the fact that they have a bona fide front person.  Vocalist Karl Hyde made sure that the show had a very human connection to the music, while producer Rick Smith and touring beat master Darren Price held for the decks, making sure that music never stopped throughout the course of the main set.

It was a perfectly maintained setlist, never getting mellow, and mixing up the familiar with the new tracks and deeper tracks, and never allowing anyone to stop dancing. During “Born Slippy NUXX,” the room was filled with white balloons that bounced around the room, reflected whatever color light that fell under, creating the illusion of rainbows bouncing around the dance floor.

The crowd was ecstatic from beginning to end. Nobody stopped moving, and they even ended up playing for half an hour longer than the advertised set time, because nobody let them leave. As the sweaty masses finally moved out, the bartenders decided to fill up cups of ice water for the masses to pick up on the way out, a pleasant surprise that I have never encountered before at a show, and a very healthy way to end an evening of aerobic bliss.

Here is the set list, as found on LastFM:

Dark & Long (Dark Train)
Cowgirl
Two Months Off
Cup/Push Upstairs
Beautiful Burnout
New Song (Not yet titled)
Between Stars
King Of Snake
Born Slippy
Pearl’s Girl
Jumbo
Encore:
Spikee
Moaner

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian August 10, 2009 at 11:50 am

Nice review! Did you know that a video of the show has been archived online? http://qtunderworld.edgeboss.net/download/qtunderworld/uw_ref.mov

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steve September 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm

You mention that Born Slippy .NUXX was recorded for dubnobasswithmyheadman. Where did you get this information? Please email me. From everything I have read it was recorded in late 1994/early 1995. However excerpts of the songs lyrics were included in the inner sleeve of the albums artwork and the group was performing an early version of it in 1994 (refer to Glasgow concert) it was not completed and was missing the famous synth chords.

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