Underworld @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 3 Apr

Seeing Underworld in 2024 doesn't quite transport you back to an imaginary 90s heyday – but you'd do worse than losing yourself to the rave for a few hours

Live Review by Lewis Wade | 05 Apr 2024
  • Underworld

Split into two sets (an hour and an hour-and-a-half) with no support, tonight is unequivocally focused on immersing the audience into Underworld. So it's slightly surprising that the first two songs (Low Burn and Nylon Strung) are hampered by technical difficulties that see a roadie become an unofficial band member for 15 minutes. It's a wobbly start, especially as the sound gaps seem to appear at pivotal moments and drops, but we're well into the groove by the time of the first classic cut, Dirty Epic.

Karl Hyde quickly abandons his position between the electronic rig to dad-rave on a raised podium at the back of the stage, leaving Rick Smith to the boring job of making the music. Hyde is indefatigable all night, singing more than most would expect and proving his early 90s rave bonafides with a plethora of questionable moves.

An updated version of Juanita leads into Tin There to close off the first set in a frankly ludicrous barrage of strobe lights and noise. After years of light shows, including a berserker display from Aphex Twin, I've never experienced one that quite literally altered my vision for several minutes. There doesn't appear to be much thematic reason for the set split, beyond giving the crowd a break from dancing, and to recover their sense of sight and sound.

Kicking off with Jumbo, the second, longer set delves into more of the band's hits, delivering intense gems like Rez / Cowgirl, Pearl's Girl (with wild pitched-down vocals) and King of Snake. The audience gyrate and rock in unison, moving like a school of (Beaucoup) fish about the Usher Hall floor. Stewards have long since given up trying to challenge any standing punters in the Grand Circle and up top, and the smoke that's liberally pumped about the room makes it feel like a dank warehouse, despite the august surroundings.

The duo are clearly enjoying themselves, guiding the crowd through the drops (and toying with them for a few fakeouts) and bouncing about the stage – even Smith gets a turn on vocals and a boogie. This is, of course, leading to the inevitable finale of Born Slippy .NUXX which is about as glorious as the version etched on the collective brain. However, the emotional power of the song is often forgotten, as it's viewed as a simply hedonistic anthem. Alongside the more hardcore cuts, it actually ends the night on a bodily euphoric note that usually requires chemical assistance to achieve.

Tonight is ultimately too polished and sanitised to truly recreate whatever imaginary version of the 90s you wish to relive, but tomorrow's ringing ears and pounding headache – not to mention the bass drums rattling around your brain – may go some way to making you feel like it.