Apprehension is the buzz word on the short ride down to The Forum, as the latest chapter to the Underworld story, Barking, sits very close to the 'cheese' side of the deli counter. A series of collaborations from the sublime, tonight's support 'Appleblim,' to the questionable, Paul Van Dyk (more from him later), the mostly song driven affair is, at best, passable. The latest episode of The Inbetweeners was my 13th favourite if you get what I mean.
Live, the levels of euphoria upon leaving an Underworld gig are matched only by hearing your national anthem on a podium. The continued worry that this wouldn't happen tonight meant pints were being drunk in double quick time. "I want you to be the way I want you to be and when you're not it hurts me."
Falling 4 days after the album's release, the band chose 5 of the 9 tracks to showcase, opening with a 6th, and perhaps the best of the lot, a third Mark Knight collaboration, 'Downpipe.' Appearing on Knight's album but not their own; Underworld instead chose to include the simply dreadful Paul Van Dyk-produced 'Diamond Jigsaw.'
Where 'Downpipe' sets the tempo and smiles for the set, 'Jigsaw,' on the back of 'Between Stars,' removes all the energy from a room previously pulsating to a rapturous 'Cowgirl.' It would be polite to suggest the crowd had only had a few days to get to know these tracks but when the opening synths of 'King of Snake' kick in it is as if that 10minutes it didn't happen.
The standout of the new material is the High Contrast - produced 'Scribble' which comes bouncing into the Forum like a panzer attack, off the back of the seminal beauty of 'Two Months Off.' It's a wonderful contrast, a pun I make no apologies for.
For the majority tonight, Underworld were exactly the way the crowd wanted them to be. It took Karl a mere 3 tracks to have them eating out of his hand as 'Dark & Long' feeding off the uplifting refrains of newbie 'Always Loved a Film' as if they'd been written together, not twenty years apart. Dressed in the same shirt he had on at the Roundhouse in July, Karl sang and danced like he always does, like his life depends on it. Whilst the setlist was almost identical to that night - about half new and old - the added encore was a very welcome addition from the archives.
'Moaner' preceded by 'Pearl's Girl' was worth the admission price alone. Dark, brooding, distorted techno from the very purveyors that turned the genre on its head all those years ago and whilst full sets like this are in their past, the retrospective glances are as welcome as a (warm) rioja on the deep blue Morocco (n sea).
Welcome back old friend.