Underworld: Vivid Live – Sydney Opera House – 1st June 2019


It’s evening two of a four night (Concert Hall hosted) Vivid one-off performance extravaganza crafted by artistic pioneers Rick Smith and Karl Hyde. Together they are the founding members of an almost 40 year old electronic outfit: Underworld yet as they find themselves entering centre stage to peer upon the capacity crowd it’s clear that the two best mates from Cardiff in Wales are anything but aged. The sense of anticipation from the already standing (not seated) crowd is immediately apparent.

Traditionally fans view a Saturday night show as demonstrating their truest, purest fandom and tonight proves no exception. For those gathered are eager to see what the pair’s 52 singles in 52 weeks project: Drift might come to life live as, whilst anticipating that a rather healthy dose of their mid 90s catalogue (aka banging club anthems) will feature too. By the end of the night they will not be disappointed.

Seasoned as the duo are at rallying and riling their crowds, this show opens with the meandering build track Juanita (1996) which for those too young (and there is a few of the audience here tonight who fit the youth category) the song title is flashed behind the duo, a trend that continues throughout the night. The bold block lettering is a full stop and punctuation in itself, particularly as it accompanies the dazzling and Vivid-esque array of laser-lit atmospheric strobes that begin to pulsate against Rick Smith’s deft synthesising precision.

Meantime Karl is the quintessential entertainer, possessing or rather possessed by an almost a messianistc quality in performance. He seems to have an outer body experience to deliver the pace and panache of dance moves and lyrical wonderment which underlie the grinding heavy industrial 90s techno sounds that his playing partner orchestrates. At one point those with vivid imaginations might have been mistaken for thinking Karl was being projected as a hologram behind Rick, delivering an out-of-this world performance.

A highlight in what can only be considered one of the best entire live shows from an electronic act that I’ve ever witnessed, was the heady green euphoria inducing strobe and 3D bubble lit visual effects (it’s like you could reach out and touch them) that supported the elation King of Snake  (1999) produces – which was a mammoth eight or nine minutes in length. Elsewhere the audience’s reverie for their latest and unreleased Border Country single which will feature on the upcoming album (Due October 2019), was palpable.

The energy meter rose a few notches both on stage and within the crowd when Karl took to the microphone and introduced Rick’s solo Rez (1994) and from there it was a smooth transition to another crowd favourite, from iconic album release: Dubnobasswithmyheadman Cowgirl (1994). Of course the roof very nearly was raised when the chords synonymous with anthemic Born Slippy the single which was to resonate globally from 1996’s Trainspotting soundtrack, which sent the crowd into a hypercolour rapture bouncing layers deep. As the two departed they appeared moved beyond belief, clear testimony to how loved by their fans here in Australia they truly are.

photo credit Prudence Upton


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