London Highbury Garage

London Highbury Garage

When a hairy skate-punker, shorts so long they clearly have ambitions to become trousers, starts mimicking this new dance, [a]Underworld[/a] and the US have evidently become properly acquainted...

This is new territory for the youth of California. Having mastered the Technicolor arsing-about of the [a]Prodigy[/a], they’re eager to taste another flavour of Essextronica. The cartoon machismo has gone, and in its place? Why, a man who appears to be swimming through treacle.

This can only be KARL HYDE. [a]Underworld[/a]’s singularly buoyant frontman has already performed the ‘marathon runner whose pants are ablaze’ and the ‘thoroughly hexed shaman’, and this is just his way of celebrating their debut LA gig. Matching him every jaunty step of the way, the 1,500-strong crowd are also partying their brains out. Witness the woman who, as the low-end buzzing of ‘Pearl’s Girl’ commences, is so exhilarated she lifts the visor on the miniature astronaut she thought sensible to bring along and kisses him on the lips. Of course, this could have something to do with the fact that she, like many here, is indisputably spinning out on E.

And though it’d be miles from the truth to say MDMA must be swirling through your system to enjoy Emerson, Hyde & Smith, it’s nevertheless fitting. Far more than THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS or FATBOY SLIM, their music is constructed around locking-in and trancing-out. Pharmaceutically assisted or not, you either climb deep inside their giddy rushes of hypno-techno until they become an aural Ready Brek glow, or you vacate the area. Which no-one here has any intention of doing. And no wonder, because Karl is updating his repartee; previously unswervingly manic, he’s now turned romantic. The screens display melting galaxies, the radioactive strains of ‘Cowgirl’ accelerate and Karl shakes his hips, twirls a finger through the air and unexpectedly, the JARVIS COCKER of dance is born.

Sticking with the newly born, Underworld preview tracks from ‘Beaucoup Fish’, their forthcoming album. ‘King Of Snake’ starts off dubby and evil before it’s tempered with florid rave-up pianos, but otherwise, they’re sticking with material which is frothy, fluid, though never toothsome. ‘Cups’ and ‘Push Upstairs’ flaunt their club credentials grandly, dispatching robust rhythms over which Hyde now murmurs with increased extravagance.

That just leaves ‘Born Slippy’, a missive you’d imagine would be anathema to these under-21s, for whom the ‘pleasures’ of lager are still prohibited. Despite sudden consternation from Smith and Emerson, examining their hardware as if the biggest technical hitch since the side blew out of Apollo 13 has just occurred, they rev up their trance turbine and Underworld’s ode to the vagaries of life on our side of the pond hits the floor so masterfully, it subjugates the now-euphoric audience.

Thus Karl must celebrate again, waltzing as if someone is tugging away at his intestines. When a hairy skate-punker, shorts so long they clearly have ambitions to become trousers, starts mimicking this new dance, Underworld and the US have evidently become properly acquainted. It’s a relationship which could go far.