On the eve of Thanksgiving, November 23, Underworld played a great show at the Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom in Midtown.
By the time I arrived, the show was sold out, a long line stood way down 34th Street, NYC’s Liquid Todd had already finished his set, and the line for the coat check was about an hour long . Carl Cox was on making the crowd move with hypnotic trance beats. For the most part the crowd only near the front around the DJ was getting into the music. But as the Ballroom got more crowded on the huge dancefloor and the multiple balconies, the dancing and cheering spread a bit more. Cox spun a long but energetic set with enough builds in the music to get the crowd going, but a large portion of the crowd stared forward as the screens and projectors were being aligned for the Tomato video projections to come on during Underworld’s performance. Finally Hyde, Smith and Emerson took to the stage and kicked in with their classic track Rez, and simultaneously the 5 projections showed the existing Underworld videos mixed with new and different footage. Darren Emerson and Richard Smith bopped behind their huge set up of equipment, as Karl Hyde jumped around all over the stage with a mic in his hand and huge headphones over his head, spewing out his stream of consciousness word collages. A lot of their set was what seemed to be chopped up bits of a lot of their songs twisted and mixed in new ways. I saw Underworld about 3 years ago, and compared to that show Karl Hyde did not sing as much this time around. Half way through, they kicked into their hit Born Slippy and the crowd responded by jumping around like mad. The wooden floor of the Hammerstein Ballroom literally felt like a trampoline; it was flexing and bending under the weight and pressure of all the dancing/jumping. In addition to the Tomato projections, the lighting was very effective during the show as well. Strobe lights pointed directly at the crowd to turning on all the house and stage lights during the show jumped the show around from being staccato and blinding to ethereal and illuminating. Their music also flowed and jumped around in the same manner. Odd transitions and mixes to each song to abrupt endings in songs, and a mix between hard pounding beats to guitar laden poppier tracks kept the set interesting. All the while the Tomato projections added another depth to the show; a favorite scene from the projections being silhouetted shots of the Millennium Falcon and an X-Wing Fighter toy flying through the air. At the end of it all, Hyde stepped forwarded and said to the sweaty New York crowd, “This is where a lot of our songs began. I thank you.”