For those in the know on all things electronic music, Underworld’s Hollywood Bowl stop was easily one of the most anticipated shows of the year. Aside from ranking supremely high on the influence scale amongst other electronic acts, the group, which is legendary for putting on standout live performances, had not been seen in our fair city since 2010.

So despite the fact that their show fell on the weekend of the Electric Daisy Carnival and Father’s Day, the Bowl was sufficiently packed with raver kids old and young, all of whom had turned up wanting to catch the group’s only North America stop of the year.

The night kicked off with a set from soul collective Jungle, who had previously made a critically-lauded appearance at this year’s Coachella. Perhaps as a result of the still-shining sun at 7PM, the group’s energy for the first half of the set seemed surprisingly low. They perked up in the latter half, though the audience didn’t really get going until the penultimate track, “Busy Earnin’.” Their set was enjoyably groovy overall, but it would have benefited from a healthy dose of caffeine.


This long-awaited headliner took the stage with little to no fanfare and immediately dove into the deliciously paced “Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You” off their third album, dubnobasswithmyheadman, which celebrated its 20th birthday with a remastered rerelease last year.

Given the timing, it’s unsurprising that a decent chunk of the set was devoted to giving the album a little extra love, a proposition I was more than okay with since I consider it to be Underworld’s best. “Dirty Epic” in particular stood out as a track that has not only aged exceedingly well but practically invented the genre of modern day progressive house decades before its time.


But perhaps the highlight of the entire night was listening to “Cowgirl” played in its entirety live. I don’t think my heartbeat has quite returned to normal from that one two days after the fact; the magic present there needs to be experienced to be believed.

Tracks off the group’s other stellar albums were also well-represented and well worthy of mention. The frenetic tension of “Pearl’s Girl” translated exceedingly well as a mid-set crowd mover, as did “Scribble,” though the latter set an entirely different tone with its more accessible, radio-friendly drum and bass qualities.

The driving, industrial pulses of “Spikee” provided nostalgic flashbacks to the warehouse rave sound that dominated the electronic airwaves in the ’90s and led into the melodic ebb and flow of “Two Months Off” beautifully. It was at this precise point of the set that I internalized how truly diverse the Underworld catalog is and how far ahead of the curve they have consistently been in their decades-long career.

Of course I’d be remiss not to point out how stellar the closer, “Born Slippy .NUXX,” sounded live. Perhaps Underworld’s best known track, it made excellent use of the Hollywood Bowl’s excellent acoustics and was accented with flashes of rainbow light and satisfied cheers from a crowd that had to this point remained largely spellbound by the on-stage happenings.


That’s not to say the set didn’t have some room for improvement. For one, the starkly minimal visual setup could have used a little more oomph.

Given Underworld’s style of music, I wouldn’t expect them to go with the “slew of fireworks and flamethrowers amidst a flurry of scantily clad go-go dancers” approach that has permeated EDM as of late. Having said that, it wouldn’t have totally sucked to have those Times New Roman track title openers on screen at the start of each song fade away into something a little more exciting than a mostly blank screen (or in “Rez’s” case, having the stage drowned in a sea of uniformly fuchsia light).

Perhaps this was a conscious decision on the band’s part so as to not distract from the music, but when viewed in the context of other similarly popular artists and the production they’ve been doling out at their performances (e.g. Chemical Brothers), it’s hard not to want a little more here.


Additionally, I could have done with fewer pauses between each track. While frontman Karl Hyde’s occasional nostalgic reminiscing and declarations of gratitude were touching, I would have liked to see some of the excellent mixing the group is more than capable of worked into this set more.

But really, these are all minor complaints in the grander scheme of things. When it comes to the big kahuna of any concert — the music — Underworld hit the ball far out of the park. Everything from the sound quality to the track selection was right on the money, and they more than lived up to the lofty expectations five years of waiting had placed on them. This was without a doubt a show for the ages for both the casual EDM-head and the consummate connoisseur, and anyone who could count themselves among the lucky attendees knows it.


For more info: