UNDERWORLD, Royal Festival Hall – Evening Standard, 13 Oct 2014


While Britpop fizzed 20 years ago, another kind of music was also having a golden moment — one that has stood the test of time far better. The mid-Nineties was the time when rave culture shifted from warehouses to the nation’s homes, with Orbital, The Prodigy, Leftfield, The Chemical Brothers and Underworld all producing albums of lasting significance.

The latter are celebrating two decades since their career best, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, with this one-off, track-by-track reprisal and a spring tour. The venue choice reinforced the importance of the album but the seats were unused by the middle-aged clubbers except during Tongue’s brief calm.

Otherwise it was all euphoric enthusiasm for one of dance music’s darkest collections. Singer Karl Hyde evoked the small hours beauty and alienation of the big city on songs such as Dirty Epic and Dark & Long. His producer partner Rick Smith shook his head in frustration at sound issues. At one point he appeared to break the Festival Hall, when everything stopped and roadies dashed on like the fire brigade. It didn’t extinguish the mood. “Start at the beginning again!” came a shout. Yes please.

Next playing March 6, Eventim Apollo, W6 (0844 249 1000,eventimapollo.com)