Underworld and John Digweed, Bank of America Pavilion, September 15, 2007
It was strange to see Bank of America Pavilion only one-quarter full for last Saturday’s Underworld/John Digweed concert. True, the night was chill and raw, but the music was bright and light, and dark and dry, complex but not complicated. And it was bipolar, too. The now 50-year old Karl Hyde of Underworld vocalized (and slid his way across the stage as smoothly as any white guy I’ve seen), his smooves energized by the electronic figurines of Rick Smith and the DJ mixes of Darren Price. Occasionally Hyde added a guitar to his repertoire of moves and sounds; that and his gold sequined jacket made him look like Elton John posing as Elvis Costello. Or like Holly Johnson, of Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
MORE GLAM THAN RAVE: With Underworld, you heard not the trees, but the whole the forest.
Playing the now infamous “Born Slippy .NUXX” and “Pearl’s Girl,” along with “Crocodile” (from the soon-to-be-released Oblivion with Bells, their fifth studio CD), Underworld sounded like (and frequently quoted snippets from) Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, the Cure, Erasure, New Order, the Neon Judgment, and, yes, Frankie. In short, they showed themselves to be more of a glam band than a rave unit despite the presence of a DJ and the absence of a drummer and a bass player. And the sum of their quotes is a sound so lush, with so much swing between Hyde’s froggy, Blood Sweat & Tears vocals and the electronic atmospherics of Price and Smith, that one heard not the individual trees but the entire forest. If their music remains rooted in 1985-’95, it also sums up the entire glam ideal — exemplified by Hyde, an art-school kid from Wales — that a poor boy can talk the talk, and walk the walk, of a rich man’s world.
The music of Underworld is almost supremely funkless. Not so that of Australian superstar DJ John Digweed, whose dry, crinkly electro-techno opening set had hips swaying and arms bobbing to his funky beats and seamless mixes.
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