Reviewed: Underworld at The Depot
With more than 30 years in the game, Underworld are one of the first names that come to the lips when you ask dance music fans who inspired them to follow the music they love. Being heard by multiple generations and not just being part of trends, but setting them, they are one of the most important live acts in the world.
Over the last year, Underworld made an ambitious commitment to release music every week. Most of it was new, recorded and mixed in the days following the previous release. With no fixed destination, they named the project ‘DRIFT’ and 52 weeks on the result has been an impressive collection of music and film inspired by their global travels, unique collaborations and improvised moments. To celebrate this work they announced a string of arena performances and tonight they took their special live performance to the new home of The Warehouse Project at The Depot, Mayfield in Manchester.
The cavernous setting of the disused railway depot filled up early with smiling ravers both young and old to the soundtrack of ‘Rick Smith and The Mysterons’. One characteristic of Underworld shows is the special atmosphere that is created by the captivating energy of the duo, their dedication to electronic music shows no bounds and is also displayed in the crowd they pull which is made up of every facet of the dance music scene.
The electric buzz in the room paused as the massive screens behind the stage projected a speeding car around a race track, taken from the first episode of the ‘DRIFT’ series, before the pair took to the stage to cheers and whistles. Kicking off with shimmering synth combined with Hyde’s innovative vocals on ‘Listen To Their No’, this lead single from the ‘DRIFT’ series displaying that their thirst for production is as strong as it ever has been. To delight, they then played fan favourite ‘Two Months Off’, the heart-warming looped melody received with hands in the air as Karl moved around the stage using his infectious characteristic sweeping arm movements and hip jive.
1996 progressive masterpiece ‘Juanita: Kiteless: To Dream Of Love’ brought the emergence of the impressive laser production that had been packed into the venue, with mesmerising pinks and greens becoming a backdrop to the journey of the soundtrack. The entire crowd went deadly silent for a moment as they froze the lasers, Rick and Karl also standing motionless, before inducing gasps of excitement as they kicked back in unison.
‘Soniamode’ and ‘Another Silent Way’ presented more current dynamism from the ‘DRIFT’ series, whilst the screen behind them emitted the simple word ‘REZ’ as a purple haze covered the figure of Hyde, closely followed by the strobe and sweat-soaked rave mania of ‘Cowgirl’.
The tempo dropped slightly and a nice surprise came in a rare set appearance during the haunting ‘Beautiful Burnout’, before the bounce and stride of ‘Jumbo’ and the intense build-up and drop of ‘Dark & Long’. ‘Border Country’, a loopy new collaboration with techno titan Ø [Phase], sounded uniquely powerful under the dripping sweat of the lofty warehouse ceiling.
Saving some of the best till last, the Donna Summer interpolated bassline of ‘King of Snake’ resonated throughout the vast room before the ferocity of the laser show dropped again and bright yellow lights went up to reveal sheer joy plastered on every member of the crowds face whilst the transcendent classic ‘Born Slippy’ was sang back word for word by the audience
Rick and Karl came together to embrace on stage as they closed their set with ‘Always Loved a Film’ to rapturous adulation. A nearby raver could be seen filled with tears of joy after finally getting to see the pair following a 25-year wait and this summed up the emotion in the room. In this celebratory performance, the new ‘DRIFT’ tracks stood up to the classics, life long fans had been satisfied and a few more die-hards were made in the process. Long live Underworld!