After years of waiting, I finally saw Underworld on New Year’s Eve on Bondi Beach. Waves crashing next to us, stars in the sky, and Underworld on stage proving they are still the world’s most ambitious and engaging electronic musicians and one of the best live bands period.
With the cancellation of Eric Prydz, Shore Thing organizers gave Underworld thirty more minutes on stage which means we were treated to a full, proper Underworld show. We got a trio of early songs (Cowgirl, Spikee, Spoonman) and some stuff that has yet to be released (Small Conker and a Twix, You Do Scribble) and everything in between.
Opening with a lengthy version of Crocodile, Underworld were instantly captivating. As a longtime fan of their music I was keen to see how they would construct a set on New Year’s Eve and was pleased to see they didn’t just play “the hits.” Dropping Spoonman as the second song in the set I took to be a great sign as to where the night was headed. When it was immediately followed by a storming version of Cowgirl/Rez I nearly lost my shit.
Beautiful Burnout, the epic highlight from 2007′s Oblivion With Bells followed. It was at this point obvious that a large portion of the crowd really didn’t care about Underworld (I actually overheard someone say, “Don’t worry, The Presets will be really good.”). Luckily, Amanda and I had found a spot away from the epic douchebaggery of the main crowd and were able to enjoy the lengthy, moody pieces like Beautiful Burnout in relative peace. After this, Karl Hyde, Underworld’s magnetic and youthful-beyond-his-years frontman, read a poem about Sydney before kicking into the aggressive Rowla which led straight into Pearls Girl.
At this point in the evening, the time began to be flashed on the screens on stage as the clock ticked closer and closer to midnight. To accommodate the countdown, Underworld slipped in a concise version of Jumbo before letting the crowd count down to midnight. And then, on the stroke of midnight, two things happened. First, fireworks exploded above the stage. Second, that famous keyboard part from Born Slippy exploded from the stage (here’s a video of the countdown). It was an absolutely perfect way to kick off 2009. I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it was to finally hear this song live in person.
Throughout the night I was impressed to see how much Karl Hyde continues to command the stage. For a man at the age of 51, he was dancing like a maniac. Clearly feeding off the crowd (who he praised throughout the evening), Hyde did something many electronic musicians really struggle with: he connected with the crowd. All night he danced, bounced, sang, and played guitar as if he was a kid. His energy was infectious.
The last half of Underworld’s set featured quite a bit from my favourite Underworld record, Beaucoup Fish. An extended Push Upstairs followed midnight’s Born Slippy before the band mixed in some unreleased stuff in the form of Small Conker and a Twix/You Do Scribble. From there it was an adrenalin rush of a finish as the band unleashed Two Months Off and a monstrous version of Spikee. The violent pace of King of Snake followed before the band ended the night with a tremendous take on Moaner. The way Moaner builds and builds as Karl races through the lyrics makes it a great way to end a show and last night was no exception.
Underworld had impossible, decade-long, expectations to live up to last night. And somehow, they delivered on every level. An unbelievable way to kick off 2009.
Born Slippy .NUXX
Small Conker and a Twix/You Do Scribble
Two Months Off
Shudder/King Of Snake
Underworld had a great night too, if their blog is anything to go by.
I should point out that Underworld were playing Bondi as part of the Shore Thing festival. You clearly had a douche-free New Year’s, because they were all at this event; it made Underworld’s triumph all the more remarkable. As soon as Underworld left the stage we got the hell out of Bondi as I am no fan of The Presets. The only DJ that really grabbed me was Boys Noize who worked the crowd well (New Order and Feist being his set highlights).