Underworld - Dubnobasswithmyheadman

Underworld – Dubnobasswithmyheadman


I’m not sure how I feel about full album shows. On one hand, if you love the album it’s great – you know what’s coming and you know the band will play your favourite song from it because, er, they have to. On the other hand, there’s no surprise, there’s no tension, there’s no ‘will they play it’ vibe, and you literally know what’s coming next all the time. There’s also the whole ‘have they run out of ideas’ or ‘lazy’ thing, there’s no new album to tour so let’s just go out and play something we know people will lap up. Having said that, one of the best shows I ever saw was Spiritualized doing ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’ in full, it was just sublime from start to finish.

Tonight Underworld join this group of bands, touring a seminal album in their back catalogue. It’s 21 years since ‘Dubnobasswithmyheadman’ was released, and it stands up as well today as it did back then – maybe this is why they chose to tour it. A lot of their most beloved songs come from it, and the excitement amongst all the 40-somethings (seriously, it’s been a long time since I’ve been amongst the youngest people at a gig) in Manchester’s magnificent Albert Hall is palpable; they cheer at the end of every song the DJ plays before the main set, thinking the main event might be coming.

When Karl Hyde and Darren Price (no Rick Smith, who is apparently on the sound desk – bit strange) stride on stage, the massive screen behind them displaying the album title and nothing else, the up-fer-it crowd display the kind of reverence I imagine is stoked in 15 year old girls at a Justin Bieber concert. And so it begins, ‘Dubbass…’ in its entirety. Opener ‘Dark and Long’ is a mesmerising start, it’s repetitive groove matched by Hyde’s snakehips, a move he pulls out more than once over the course of the evening. My favourite track from this album ‘Mmm Skyscraper I Love You’ is perfect, Hyde’s voice hollering ‘I see Elvis!’ with the whole crowd as backing vocalists is a pretty special moment for me. It’s the one-two of ‘Dirty Epic’ (‘I get my kicks on Channel 6’) followed by an incredible ‘Cowgirl’ that is the highlight though, the hall transported back to the heady days of the start of Cool Britannia, a mid-90s rave up like the last 20 years haven’t aged anyone at all, hangovers be damned, everyone is going to get on it and it’s going right off. The beam on Hyde’s face tells you everything you need to know: he’s made a load of fans very happy here, who cares if it’s through music that came out 20 years ago? Apparently some of the songs are made up of backing tracks rather than being purely live (according to Manchester heroes Mint Royale on the ol’ Twitter), but when it’s this much fun I can’t really grumble.

As ‘Dubbass…’ draws to a close with M.E., the expectation in the crowd is reaching fever pitch. Will they? Surely they will. The duo launch into a pulsating ‘Rez’, which is followed by it. ‘It’ being ‘Born Slippy’ the song that launched Underworld into the wider mainstream (and as a 12 year old was the first I’d heard of them), the widely misinterpreted anthem from Trainspotting that sends the crowd into raptures. From the opening synth stabs everyone in the place is grinning from ear to ear. There’s just something about shouting ‘lager lager lager’ at the top of your voice with a few thousand other people than can’t be beat. As the pummelling midsection comes to a close and is replaced again by the wonderful synth line, I’m weirdly overcome with emotion and some tears somehow form in my eyes. I don’t know whether it’s the nostalgic feeling of the whole evening or that a stranger felt compelled to put his arm around me at the end of Born Slippy, but this backwards looking gig has touched me in a way I wasn’t really expecting. I probably won’t be listening to ‘Dubbass…’ for a little while but for 90 mins Underworld took me back and I loved every minute of it.

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