By David Bienenstock

After a five-year absence, seldom-seen techno powerhouse Underworld returned to the United States for a handful of shows this September, including a gig in Central Park, the calm heart of New York City, whose bustling streets the UK based group credits as an inspiration for their unique style of improvisational dance music. Taking the open air stage just after sunset on a pleasantly breezy Friday evening, Karl Hyde, the group’s singer and frontman – truly bedazzling in a sequined suit jacket – jumped and sang and even played guitar in front of large video screens showing old school video games like Asteroids and Pong, to the delight of a mix-aged crowd either reliving good times or having those good times for the first time around.

Speaking of old school, the setlist mixed fan favorites like “Born Slippy,” “Cowgirl” and “Pearl’s Girl,” with new material from Oblivion with Bells, Underworld’s first commercial release since 2002. In the meantime, they’ve busied themselves with running an indie label and a radio show, while producing several experimental, internet-only albums. And while the dance floor predictably erupted for the familiar hits, Underworld’s energy, energy, energy, not to mention the fans’, remained high throughout the new songs from Oblivion as well.

Hopefully, Underworld won’t keep fans waiting until 2012 for another above ground sighting.