Underworld Live @ Sydney Opera House (Vivid Live): May 30th 2024


An air of serendipity cloaked last night’s gig atmosphere, as the crowd hurried to gain entry to the revered Sydney Opera House. Why? Exactly five years to the day since the intriguing duo, OG lads from Romford in the UK, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith (Underworld) had performed on Australian shores, and who knew what magic lay in store this evening.

Perhaps most eerie to observe, the two gents looking for all intents and purposes unchanged, Rick nestled comfortably behind the mixing desk and Karl not yet visible. While no doubt each is a little more seasoned for their absence, without any spoken introduction they were on, there to do the business. Assuring buoyancy and skill at settling a jittery, excited and anticipating capacity-filled auditorium into their style and pace of hypnotizing dark and low beats.

After all, Underworld are the ordained Gods of British Techno. Accompanied by a slew of albums spanning decades and dance floor rave fodder to choose from the duo last lit Vivid LIVE on May 31st 2019. Back then it was their intoxicating and elevating take on post-punk, rock-infused electronica which gripped the throng of fans, for a four-night assault to the aural and visual senses. Last night, emerging from behind the mixing desk, which was flanked by synth heavyweight,  Rick Smith deft in his intuition to manufacture melodic wonderment, and cast behind him, a dim blue-lit shadow of Karl Hyde, began to slowly find its form. And with him the initial embers of ‘hope’ were ignited via Slow Burn.  Paving way for a metaphoric foreshadowing for the hours that lay ahead of this show as well, a parable for our current post-pandemic livelihoods. A perfect opener lifted from ninth studio album, 2016’s Barbara Barbara We Face a Shining Future.

And swiftly the audience were encouraged to face their shining futures, front on. Imbibed with the soft embrace of M.E. “can you hold me in your dreams” the invitation was not left wanting. Karl, his lithe body, moulding into shapes and sharp movement was alive. Intent on dosing those discerning with musical pills laced in the heady emotions of pure love, thanks to Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You, washed down with tasting notes of 1994’s Dubnobasswithheadman: Dirty Epic. The dial on joy was also notched up a smidge when 2020’s Drift Release: Soniamode, allowed space for the whirring repetition of  Karl’s plea for “…hands up, Joy Joy.”  It was a huge end to the first act of this intermission bookended set with 1999’s Beaucomp Fish LP springing forth crowd favourite: Jumbo.

The second half to this show, and all signs pointed to an express train bound for station: Euphoria. A well-read, and tethered love letter to their loyal fans, this portion of the set was cleverly executed and featured their gamut of hits. Denver Luna a richly textured walk into ravelands to resume offering the rekindling of the dance flame of both audience and Karl. But when the spoken word lyrics featuring a red heart and exclamation mark, reflecting the backdrop of CGI art of the same, the tinges of ecstasy and elation seeped like the bleeding text on screen into our veins. The winding and recognisable intro to Two Months Off led into the undeniable and uplifting energetic chorus of: “You Let Light In” and possibly was shattered only by the menacing follow-on that 1994 hit: Cowgirl “Eraser of Love” could elicit. But by this time the Concert Hall in complete rapture didn’t care. Of course, the well-worn sneaker of Born Slippy and synonymous beat drop the lights lifted on the disco-imbuing and anthemic climax, Kyle summed it up perfectly: “Sydney, you’re magnificent.”

Photo Credit: Jordan Munns


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