Underworld is royalty in underground electronic music and rave scenes and they don't seem to mind not becoming sensations like recent EDM "superstars" such as Calvin Harris and Avicii. In case you were in a coma during the 1990’s or happened to not be born yet, Underworld formed circa 1980 with principal members Karl Hyde, Rick Smith, and now Darren Price since 2005 after Darren Emerson’s departure in 2001.
Supporting Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future, and 2 days before they took to the desert for Coachella, lucky Angelinos were able to see the band in full action outside of festival traffic and time constraints for over 2 hours of electronic bliss at the much smaller and much closer 2,000-person venue located in Pomona, CA.
Hyde, Smith and Price took the stage and launched immediately into 2 consecutive tunes off of Barbara, Barbara. The tracks (unfamiliar to most) were immediately well received by the sold out crowd of nostalgic UK ravers and expats all jumping simultaneously to the beat. Barbara, Barbara might be the more somber and emotive of albums, but it still delivers the same personal touch and layered electronic complexities that Underworld fans have grown to love for over 30 years. Almost every song off the new album made an appearance at some point in the night, but the overall set was so well structured that there was never too long a wait for a classic banger or other strong hit from the past including "Juanita", "Push Upstairs", "King of Snake", "Jumbo" and "Two Months Off". Fans were also treated to some rare, off-beat tracks that don’t often make it to the stage in shorter festival performances such as the trip hop-infused "Ring Road", "Eight Ball" from The Beach Soundtrack, and a first-time taste of a new remix of Dirty Epic aptly named “Dirty Club.” As Hyde introduced the track to the crowd, he boasted, “We’ve never played this next track live before. You are the first.”
The evening's crescendo was an all DJ display as Smith was left on stage alone and feverishly live-remixed three consecutive tracks live free of vocals. The crowd danced away as the lights dimmed and The Fox Theater seemed to transform into an underground London rave. "Rowla" bent and modulated until it became "Rez". "Rez" climbed and climbed analog staircases until finally Hyde retook the stage and jumped into the vocals of "Cowgirl" and the crowd lost their minds.
The night was capped off with the signature anthem of "Born Slippy". Hyde’s vocals were simply amazing. Every word clean, crisp, and never at a loss for air for the entire 2-hour marathon of sound, which is amazing since all 3 men are now in their mid to 50’s. Underworld has not lost a step since 1994. They brought down the house in Pomona and now head off to back-to-back weekend performances in the 100 degree California desert.
See Underworld at in the Sahara Tent on Friday both weekends at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.