Apr 18, 2024

Underworld bring light in at Aviva Studios / Factory International

Thirty years after the release of their classic album Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Underworld very much bassed with our head man with two spectacular shows at the weekend. 

The venue was Aviva Studios at Factory International, a triangle-decked super venue on the banks of the River Irwell in Manchester. With the seating pulled out, its main gig space has all of the warehouse vibes you'd hope for an old rave band.

Not that the audience was old. I was expecting to be surrounded by a creaking crowd of ancient clubbers, throwing our zimmer frames up in the air like we just didn't care. But it was surprisingly youthful: a testament to a band that has retained its relevance through Danny Boyle soundtracks, opening Olympic ceremonies and a bunch of fancy National Theatre gubbins.

Their lengthy discography was laid out in big fat bass spasms, from the early Dubnobass stompers to the Aphexian oversharing of 2019's massive Drift series. For the old stuff, Dirty Epic lived up to its name, and King of Snake was as poisonous as ever. Their new stuff was well represented: denver luna sounded beautiful live, and the Detroit-dappled Fen Violet seemed laser-targeted for a Manchester rave.

Karl Hyde chose to remain static in the first half, before going full Tasmanian Devil in the second section of the show. Every smiling mouth-beam of that guy is the personification of the refrain from Two Months Off: "you bring light in, you bring light in...". Oh and Rick Smith was there too. Poor Rick. Bogged down with controlling all of that electronic gear while his wayward disco brother goes ham left right and centre. I hope Rick comes off stage at the end and has a little boogie to himself, as a treat.

Shout out to my gig buddy Ros, who came to the gig as a fan of their soundtrack work and went away a bona-fide Underworld club veteran. We have now nicknamed ourselves the Strawberry Jam Girls, after an Underworld lyric. Big up to the lone guy in the "Dark Train" top who seemed lost in a special kind of bliss. And doff of the hat to White T-Shirt Guy next to me who was well up for hugs and yippees.

Here are those two sets in full. Yes, two sets. There was an interval, like we were at a Gilbert and Sullivan opera or something. Below that is a video of Two Months Off, which sees Underworld doused in sunshine, and captures perfectly the insane dynamics after the four-minute mark.

Low Burn  |  Nylon Strung  |  Trim  |  Dirty Epic  |  Soniamode (Aditya Game Version)  |  Kittens  |  Mmm... Skyscraper, I Love You  |  Juanita 2022  |  Tin There

Jumbo  |  denver luna  |  S T A R  |  Pearl's Girl  |  Dark & Long (Dark Train)  |  Two Months Off  |  Rez / Cowgirl  |  and the colour red  |  Border Country  |  Fen Violet  |  King of Snake  |  Born Slippy NUXX

Further Fats: Mmm Underworld, the world loves you (2012)

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