Review: Underworld at the Fox

Published on September 6th, 2009 by

underworld-fox-paigekparsons-5694I wasn’t quite sure why, but when I hear Underworld was playing the Fox Theater, I was really excited. I’ve never been a raver, but I’ve always enjoyed the beats and vibe of the band. I was (and am) a huge fan for the movie Trainspotting, and Underworld’s “Born Slippy .NUXX” was like an anthem for the film.


I bought my ticket several months in advance. I’d hoped to be shooting the show, but I always like a hard ticket as a bit of insurance for the bands I really want to see.

My planned attendance at the event was an on-again off-again affair. A few days after I’d bought my tickets, I found out my brother in law planned to elope at San Francisco’s City Hall that day and wanted me to photograph the event and subsequent celebration. A very decent reason to miss the show indeed! I was about to list my ticket on ebay, when evens began to shift. Making a very long story short, the happy couple ended up making plans to wed in my backyard the following afternoon, and the show was on.

I did end up requesting a photo pass about a week before the event, and to my surprise the band’s management asked if I’d like to have backstage access to shoot the entire show. Indeed I would! As if that weren’t enough excitement, the show was also extra special because Apple’s Quicktime crew would be there in full force, conducting the first real-time broadcast of a concert via the iphone.

My great traffic karma persisted as I made record time from Palo Alto to Oakland. I picked up my photo pass and headed to the backstage door to meet up and get my extra credentials. Things ran smooth as silk and in a few minutes, I’d met up with all the proper folks and got a quick tour of backstage. With just a five minute overview, I was left to my own devices with a AAA access badge for the night.

Of course it wasn’t two minutes before I was in trouble. I got groused at by the stage manager while shooting pix of the equipment before the show. Evidently it’s not good stage etiquette to be on stage or cross it in view of the audience before a show. I thought of the hundreds of roadies I’d seen break this rule, but profusely apologized. Clearly this gent was old school from the UK. I wanted to be as respectful as possible.

I enjoyed DJ Damian Lazarus and took advantage of the opportunity to become familiar with the shooting conditions from side stage. I first tried shooting from the stage right front wing, but a technician shooed me away and scolded me for being on top of some cables.

It hadn’t been ten minutes and already I’d been scolded twice. At this point I felt a bit embarrassed and paranoid. How else could I mess up? I was thinking this when a few songs into the set Damian turned around and motioned to me, making circles around his face. My first thought was what have I done! Then I released he wanted something – after a few more rounds of charades I released he was sweaty and wanted a towel for his face. I can do that, I thought.

I found someone in the Fox business office that lead me to a large stack of white hand towels, and quickly completed my mission handing Damian a stack of towels, feeling better that I was being helpful rather than a handful for the first time that evening.

Once the DJ finished his set, a crew of roadies invaded the stage, getting everything ready for Underworld. I took this moment to join in the many bodies on stage and finish capturing pictures of the equipment as well as the quickly growing crowd.

Just before Underworld took the stage, I had a chance to meet the band. I felt like a giddy schoolgirl as I was introduced to Karl and crew. It was great fun to watch everyone prepare in the final moments before going onstage. I’ve often been side-stage for the end of a show, but never at the beginning as I’m usually in the photo pit.

They began the show with “dark and long (dark train)” and the crowd went wild. The lights were beautiful, and the small hand-held spotlight tracking Karl throughout the show added a great touch. Karl’s blissful joy when performing is such a pleasure to witness. In-between vocals, he’d be dancing along to the songs, eyes closed with a relaxed smile on his face.

One of the guys in the crew spent the entire first half of the show using a modified leaf blower to blow up massively large balloons. It was a huge a mount of effort with a big payoff. Later in the set all twenty balloons were launched into the audience a la The Flaming Lips.

As I mentioned to start, I’ve never been to a rave, but I smiled as I watched several guys in the front row sucking on lollipops. It made me feel transported back to the early 90’s. Throughout the show everyone was dancing, arms up high, in a state of happy abandon.

The set covered all of your favorite Underworld classics such as Born Slippy .NUXX, Pearls Girl, Dark and Long, Cowgirl, Dirty Epic and several more. One of the more interesting technical aspects of the show was that Karl had a small night-vision camera that was held a few inches from his face. At several points during the show the close-ups of his face were broadcast to the large projection screen behind the stage. The errie green glow made it look particularly otherworldly.

The only folks not dancing their butts off were the dozen guys in the hard working Apple QuickTime crew at the back of the venue. They must have been extremely happy with the way their first iphone live broadcast was working out. Several times during the show I used my iphone to flawlessly connect to the live broadcast. With all the lights bouncing about, it was hard to see details of the three band members, but the broadcast went off without a hitch. You can still watch the saved version of the stream at Underworld’s website.

It was a historic show and I am very proud to have played my own small part in the festivities.

You can see my entire photoset from the show on flickr:
[flickr album=72157622041590078 num=8 size=Square]

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