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  • Writer's pictureDanny C

Underworld

Usher Hall, Edinburgh 03-04-24

An unusual gig this one - very very good, but quite different. A midweek show - nothing unusual there - but not a typical outing. Electronic dance anthem legends - great, but not sure how this one was going to go. For one thing, we had balcony seats not standing tickets, the band were providing their own support (playing over two and a half hours in total) – again, great and better to be able to stand or sit as we pleased was preferable to standing through a couple of sets that would be longer than a full cup match, extra time penalties and lengthy VAR additions.

While Slash Vaseline and me set out with a ‘midweek mindset’ for this (i.e. not going full throttle ‘out out’) and opted for a few quiet pints off the beaten track away from the venue instead of the usual rammed bars nearby, it seemed the torrential rain didn’t stop the rest of the Underworld giggers treating it like a weekender or rave or Gala Day celebration style-night out. I could include Irish Stevie (or Stiofáin as he asked me to refer to him in the blog), who left his gigging group of pals to join us in the gods taking a ticket beside us.


Underworld are legends. Best known for Born Slippy, the Trainspotting soundtrack and an anthemic in people’s lives throughout - and since - the Nineties. While they’re out of the music headlines since then, a constant stream of shows throughout the years proves they’re still very much alive and live (according to SetlistFM, they’ve played Born Slippy live at least 400 times) and selling out two nights at the Usher Hall in a matter of minutes is testament to their popularity.


Their first set started energetically with Low Burn and carried on pretty much in the same vein all night. Right from the off, folk around us in the Grand Circle seats were up on their feet – from the guy at the end of our row with crutches (put to the side to bound around miraculously unaided) to the arm waving pint-spillers in front and the full-on ravers beside us (except for one bloke who sat motionless the whole gig) the place was bouncing all night.


One thing about Irish Stiofáin is he’s a wonderful whirlwind of a man. He never stops. Always on the go (with the energy of someone less than half his age) and likely to bump into folk wherever he goes as much - if not more - than I usually do. At one point I went to look for him (he was taking longer than usual to come back from the bar) and found him chatting with someone he hadn’t seen for twenty years. Between his two conversations at once there was some confusion about getting his round in/pints not being poured/barrels being changed and long story short we ended up juggling six beers between us from the bar back to our seats. If that wasn’t enough, trying to swap who’s was what between the three of us and not an ounce of common sense to put at least one of them down raised a few laughs from the seats round about.

While the first set was enjoyable enough from the Circle seats, it wasn’t as appealing as the main floor looked to Stiofáin where the rest of his crowd had tickets. He said he was off to explore and that was the last we saw of him until after the gig outside.


As Underworld came back on for the main set, I did wonder that with only two of them in the band; the singer constantly floating around the stage and the other playing an range of keyboards; how they’d keep the crowd engaged enough with them as a live show for the whole night. The music itself is excellent and I don’t know how good or bad their carbon footprint is, but the lightshow and digital backdrop added more than a full band ever could. Impressive does not do justice to how they used this to add to their show bringing another dimension to the whole event - especially noticeable when “…to Edinburgh”  flashed up across the whole backdrop to the biggest cheer of the night.


I’ll be honest I’m not enough of a fan to reel through their setlist pulling out highlights or specific songs that stood out, but I will say the whole thing was mesmerising. A pair of showmen who really know their stuff on stage and how to please an audience. By the end of the gig and the finale of Born Slippy, the crowd were still cheering and bouncing as much as when they started (although there were quite a few worse-for-wear casualties around us who didn’t make it to the end). When the lights went up and the carnage around us was even more obvious -it did have a January 1st Princes Street Hogmanay morning-after the night before feeling to the place.

We briefly caught Stiofáin outside before he whirl-winded away again, just long enough for him to run through his download of the show at 100mph without taking a breath thatwasamazinghowgoodwasthatwhatdidyouthinktheywereincrediblethanksfortheticketivegotogoseeyounextweekendwowtheyweregreatseeya, or words to that effect.


I suspect most people, if not all, who saw them over the two nights (and the rest of the tour) would agree that Underworld over-delivered and sent them home over-the-moon.


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Apr 15
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great review. I should have got a ticket. Saw them at Glastonbury in 1999, brilliant gig 🤩

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