Underground Lovers
Underground Lovers | Credit: Tony Mott

Underground Lovers Review – Love and Diffidence at ‘Leaves Me Blind’ Anniversary Show

Underground Lovers played at Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club on Saturday, 19th November. Dylan Hyde reviews.

Thirty years after the UK and Australian release of their seminal second album, Leaves Me Blind, Underground Lovers returned to the Northcote Social Club in Melbourne to reprise the critically lauded record, rated #54 in the 2010 publication 100 Best Australian Albums. Its success, particularly in the UK, led to live support slots with The Cure, My Bloody Valentine and Lush. Its sound was fresh then and remains so.

Underground Lovers – ‘Your Eyes’

Both Saturday and Sunday night’s performances sold out quickly – no surprise given Underground Lovers‘ devoted following – and there was a hum of anticipation on Saturday night before the band took to the stage. A steady drone and psychedelic visuals presaged the opening track, ‘Eastside Stories’, from which the band ventured fitfully through the rest of the full-bodied album.

When vocalist and synth-player Vincent Giarrusso momentarily lost the plot between songs early in the set, a voice of encouragement bellowed from the audience, “Don’t be nervous, we love you.”

The rhythm section, comprising bassist Maurice Argiro and drummer Richard Andrews, is virtuosic. Drums and bass are not hidden in the thicket of this band’s performance. The precision required by the pair, particularly Andrews, to propel the band’s sound is exacting. The members are now in their middle years and Andrews, an extraordinary drummer, appeared every bit on the verge of collapse between songs.

The dulcet vocals calibrated the fevered aural backdrop of synth, percussion and driving guitars. Philippa Nihill’s vocals on ‘I Was Right’ were a particular balm. Looking perfectly relaxed, with arms crossed over her chest, she sweetly sang the refrain “is this your idea of a holiday” to a pulsing bass on the track ‘Holiday’.

Underground Lovers – ‘I Was Right’

There was a look of intensity on the band members’ faces as they worked their way through the album’s tracks. Their sound, although beautifully balanced and layered, occasionally rose to near entropy – the energy and momentum got so fierce at times that one was left wondering how it would disentangle.

On the rare moments that Giarrusso spoke to the crowd, his patter was a little awkward. His mumbled observations about being afflicted with Covid fell a little flat. His critique of the conversational aphorism, “I don’t have the words,” about the age we now live in had him struggling for words.

“Humble” was the way Giarrusso was described by someone on the way out. She offered her sympathies – “I think Covid might’ve fucked him.”

The performance was worker-like, soaring at times, though somewhat underwhelming as a live spectacle given the diffidence of the players.

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