Choreomania in action
Cameron Sinclair-Harris
11:13 21st March 2023

Monday evening. I’m walking through London on a damp, chilly and slightly rainy night towards the end of March. Brighter days are on the horizon, though not just yet. For now, the greys will have to do. Shops pass me by, shops that I will never be able to comfortably afford to give my custom to, fancy hotels with ushers in suits and ties and genuinely unironic top hats flank me as I walk. Little do I know that these will be the last few steps I take in this universe, for now. Awaiting at me at the end of the road is the Albert Hall, the Royal one, a planet within itself where Underworld, 90s electronic pioneers and national treasures, will present the answers to the questions that you didn’t even know you were asking. Beam me up. 

It’s a monolithic building, isn’t it? The Royal Albert Hall is steeped in pomp and ceremony, years and years of history under its wings. And that history cannot help but weigh upon me as I skirt around its surfaces, and get to grips with the enormity of the building, as well as the incredibly swivelly chairs. Despite its size, the standing area looks very small, which adds a scent of intimacy to the show that could get lost in a similar venue. I gaze upon the sold-out Monday crowd, and see many of the same faces. Tonight is a night for the old ravers, the former pill poppers and current buggy pushers. Think Dee Dee from Limmy’s Show if he was a dad, and you’d get a good chunk of the crowd in your mind. It sends a clear message; this is not what this building was built for. All that regality, Last Night Of The Proms faff? Tonight is a reclamation of this space, for the people. For a techno band to be playing in this esteemed prestigious venue feels subversive, almost naughty. The lunatics have well and truly taken over the asylum. 

The support isn’t initially advertised on the RAH website, but I enter the venue to be greeted by the sight of Underworld’s very own Rick Smith on the decks, essentially opening for himself. If there are any bands with the magnitude and gall to get away with such a bold move, Underworld are certainly amongst them. The reason why we’re all gathered here tonight is to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust. A charity that helps young people going through cancer treatments, they run an annual series of gigs here at the Albert Hall, as we can see on the screen, as highlights reels of bygone years play on, featuring prestigious faces such as Paul McCartney, The Cure, Florence & the Machine and many more. Films are shown and teenagers who they are currently helping are brought out to tell us first hand what a life-changing impact this charity makes; one person in particular tells us she’s had the “all clear” to momentous applause. It’s clear tonight is important, and means so much to everybody involved, and the team are deeply thankful for everyone’s support. 

"Choreomania has swept across the a show like this, you cannot spectate, you can only participate." 

And suddenly we’re in darkness once more. Blankets of smoke engulf both the stage and the audience, billowing higher and higher up into the gods as we’re all lost in a hazy fog. This is all happening to the soundtrack of ‘Caliban’s Dream’, Underworld’s gorgeously illuminating contribution to the iconic 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Whereas it initially scored the lighting of the Olympic flame, tonight we hear it in the darkness, in complete anonymity. The band aren’t even on stage, and yet their presence is felt by every single person there; when the duo, Rick Smith and Karl Hyde, eventually emerge, they are greeted like gods. By their second song, ‘Juanitta 2022’, pretty much every single person surrounding me and beyond has leapt out of their seats and started dancing. Choreomania has swept across the venue, and I am not immune. The critic in me leaves and the dancer in me takes over. In the moment, it doesn’t matter that my moves echo that of Thom Yorke in the Lotus Flower video, because the moment has taken over. At a show like this, you cannot spectate, you can only participate. 

It’s at this point in the night where I feel a temporality. I feel elevated by the manipulation of pitch, melody, rhythm and light that is taking place in front of me and suddenly I am everywhere and nowhere all at once. What was in that smoke at the start of the show? Has it chemically induced me to the point where I believe I have dimensionally transcended? It certainly feels that way. Hyde bathes amongst the lights, his arms aloft leading the crowd, a Messianic figure as he throws shapes. The stage is lit in the reddest reds, greenest greens and yellowest yellows. Though the band treat us to new tracks, they blend in seamlessly with the rest of their catalogue. Don’t take that to mean they lack character though; they share that same spark of zest and curiosity that the everything else tonight has. Anyway, who am I as a critic to analyse? They’ve fulfilled their basic obligation to get me off my chair and dance, and oh my god I am dancing. 

Where am I? A field in Pilton watching the sunrise? It feels that way as ‘Two Months Off’ illuminates the crowd, everybody embracing each other like it's the last days of Rome. Am I in an underground rave somewhere, that’s somehow broken through to the surface? The heavy strobes and countless drops of ‘Shudder/King of Snake’ give me that insurmountable feeling, each part more exciting than the last. I feel beyond human tonight, like I am being presented with how the world should be. It’s a Monday, alright, but who’s to say that this shouldn’t become the norm? Why can’t every Monday be like this, and we can throw all the ritualistic work routines in the bin? These are the moments we should be living for. “Do you wanna dance?” Hyde shouts to the crowd as ‘Born Slippy’ kicks in, and every single digit in the room is raised to the roof. Pure euphoria. Those arms are soon pumping as their Trainspotting hit kicks in, and for one final moment, everybody is in orbit. 

And then it ends. Suddenly I’m back in reality, on that damp, rainy London street. The memories of the parallel universe I spent the past two hours in are already fading. Some of my fellow audience members may forget tonight all together, wake up with a sore head and bruised ribs. Some of them will wake up ridiculously early to make it into work after a short night’s sleep, because they were too busy thinking about the night that had passed, still giddy with excitement. What links us all is that we have just witnessed Underworld’s alternative vision of the future, where everybody is one and we are free to dance whenever and wherever we please. Where we don’t have to live for financial gain, and can simply feel content to live for days like these. Life is a gift. Isn’t it beautiful? We take those lessons from the venue and pray that maybe somewhere, someday, the rest of the world catches up. 

Underworld performed as part of the #TeenageCancerGigs. To donate to Teenage Cancer Trust, visit:

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

Photo: Naomi Dryden-Smith