Underworld: Surreal Carnival Experiment
Venue: Alexandra Palace, London
Date: Friday 17th March 2017
Support: Rick Smith DJ Set
SOLD OUT EVENT
Underworld are one of the most important electronic artists of all time. Releasing one of, if not the most important techno album of all time, the celebrated dubnobasswithmyheadman, providing the auditory backbone for one of the most important British films of all time, Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, and in turn crafting the entire score for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. More recently, Underworld released their Grammy-nominated seventh album Barbara, Barbara, We Face A Shining Future, an album I called one of the best of 2016. And following a well-received 17-year-coming set at Glastonbury 2016, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith finally return to London, with their biggest headline show of their career.
Tipped as the ‘Underworld Surreal Carnival Experiment’, the four-hour night of music began with Rick Smith (producer, mixer of the group) DJing, in a set described as ‘a performance-come-installation in the middle of the main room. Tracks from a deep-dive into the Underworld catalogue will be deconstructed and re-conceived alongside new and improvised work written specifically for the show by Rick.’ With a huge white sheet surrounding Rick and the decks, standing at well over 20ft, elaborate waves of visuals were broadcast onto all four sides of the sheet. The set was more ambient than anything, and was eloquent background noise leading to the main show.
Kicking off proceedings at bang-on 9 o’clock, something you’d expect from a act of nearly 30 years, Underworld’s two hour set was one of the most professional, impeccable, and above all incredible sets I’ve ever seen. Right from the off, with the explosive opener, Mmm Skyscraper…I Love You, Underworld took Alexandra Palace on a whirlwind of electronic music, exploring an array of sounds and movements, through a journey of their seven studio albums. An emotional drum and bass midpoint in the form of Scribble, a much-needed gasp for breath with Low Burn, and of course a Born Slippy finale, are just a handful of highlights from the night.
Despite both members nearing 60-years-old, both Karl and Rick beamed and conveyed unquestionable youth and energy, and put on a simply faultless performance. Karl’s vocal performance was impeccable, oozing charm and rockstar class, while productional duties were taken care of by Rick with inch-perfect precision. That being said, their roles within the performance weren’t one in front of the other, one leading and one supporting, this was an all-out duo, the perfect compliment to each other, the ultimate pairing of personalities, no more epitomised by a warm embrace when entering and exiting the stage. Underworld was without doubt one of the best live performances I’ve seen, a performance that confirms their status as one of the most important electronic acts in history.
Verdict – WWWWW