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POP MUSIC REVIEW

As duo, Underworld passes the live test

October 24, 2002|Steve Baltin | Special to The Times

With the recent release of "A Hundred Days Off," electronic music heroes Underworld passed part one of the test on how it would fare without producer-DJ Darren Emerson, who left the group in 1999. Part two -- how the live show that has ranked right up there with the Prodigy's in the dance world would manage -- was answered emphatically Monday at the sold-out Wiltern.

Now a duo, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith opened strongly with the pulsating "Mo Move," the lead track from the new album. The revamped lineup worked well on stage, with the duo taking advantage of more opportunities for interplay and clearer roles in this new setup. Smith handled the majority of the programming, while Hyde sang and danced around the stage throughout the two-hour set with the energy of a disco Mick Jagger.

The crowd responded in kind to his showmanship, greeting the first break in the music with a deafening ovation that wouldn't have been out of place at an Angels World Series game.

Like any great live act, Underworld knows how to work a crowd and feed off it. During "Born Slippy," the band's anthem from the movie "Trainspotting," the house lights came up to create a moment of show-stopping frenzy. (In the first dance-music show since its remodeling, the Wiltern faced its own test, and while the floor was so packed that there was little room to dance, the large size of the room created an intensity it's hard to imagine at any dance club in L.A.)

Musically, the set kept up a blistering pace, relying heavily on the throbbing keyboard grooves Underworld is known for, with a few percussive solos mixed in for variety. If Underworld was indeed trying to make a statement, it came through with the force of a thousand thundering bass lines.

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