Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Fri 9 Nov
Only hours after the seventh Prodigy album No Tourists has made it to the top of the UK charts, it’s clear from as early as their support act Ho99o9 that the Essex rave stalwarts have an excitement about them that any other over-25-year-old musical act would kill for. Ho99o9’s music is a combination of electronic beats, metal riffs, rapping and Michael Jackson Thriller laugh samples – ticking all the boxes for a support slot like this.
But The Prodigy experience transcends simply ticking boxes. Few would argue their reputation as one of the best live acts in electronic music, but anyone who does would have to be brave to take it up with vocalist/dancer Keith Flint, whose spiked hair and illuminated face continue to terrify and thrill in equal measures. It’s evident from an opening run of Breathe, Resonate, Nasty and Omen, the latter three songs all from the last decade, that the group are stepping up beyond even their live standards. It might be the Friday night feeling, the #1 album feeling or simply the ‘people-wanting-to-warm-themselves-after-the-biblical-downpour-outside’ feeling, but this is The Prodigy playing to an audience of converts as if they needed converting.
The lights, the full live band behind Liam Howlett’s synthesizers and the regular “all my people” shouts from vocalist-cum-hypeman Maxim are all present and correct, but tonight there’s something more – interesting setlist choices like No Good (Start The Dance) and takes on old favourites, at one moment incorporating the remix by their rave/rock nephews Pendulum into Voodoo People. The Prodigy are at the point as a live act where the challenge for any new album is to complement, rather than drastically shake up, the setlist. This is a test which No Tourists comfortably passes – Champions Of London and Light Up The Sky are songs you’d hope stay in the set, as the best songs from previous album The Day Is My Enemy continue to do.
In amongst all the chaos, there’s even a genuinely positive and unthreatening energy in the crowd – none of which you would necessarily expect from a group whose two biggest hits are basically about domestic abuse (Smack My Bitch Up) and arson (Firestarter). Maxim even looks out for the fans’ hydration by regularly throwing water bottles into the crowd. The Prodigy have always been known for smashing apart the idea of ‘musical tribes’, and their live show is testament to that – it’s as easy to imagine the big beats gaining approval from Chemical Brothers fans as much as the sit down/jump up section appealing to Slipknot fans.
Short of changing the London buses in their background setup to Arriva Buses Wales, it’s hard to imagine The Prodigy giving Cardiff much more of what they want. Sure, you basically know what you’re getting with a group so established, but it’s something of a surprise that what you’re getting from them is still quite this good.
words ALEC EVANS photos KEVIN PICK