Friday, July 22, 2022

Live review: Return of The Prodigy a fitting tribute to frontman Flint

“BREATHE WITH ME!” Maxim screams as he swaggers about the stage during the opening track of The Prodigy’s set at Manchester’s Victoria warehouse. 

Wearing an artistic print puffer jacket he seems oblivious to the oppressive heat of the night. 

On the hottest day ever in the UK, I’m dreading the thought of crashing around in a mosh pit, and indeed I can say at least a few in the audience have the same reservations. But once Maxim rips off his puffer jacket in favour of a vest and eggs on the crowd, all reservations are thrown to the wind, and the dancing begins.

This is the first prodigy tour in four years, and the first set of shows since the passing of Keith Flint in 2019. Indeed as the band stated themselves, the 25th anniversary of their most famous record ‘Fat of the Land’ feels like the right time for the band to get back out, in tribute to Flint of course as band members Maxim and Liam Howlett declared on Instagram: “THIS ONE’S FOR FLINTY”. This fact was clear as I looked around at a sea of t-shirts strewn with Flint and his infamous devil horn haircut.

Certainly, the energy the band were able to create even without their iconic frontman did Flint proud. When their post-‘Fat of the Land’ bangers were played the room felt half like a Rage Against the Machine gig and half a dark and dirty drum and bass rave. But the real highlight of the show came, as expected, from their early classics. ‘Firestarter’ was evidently the crowd favourite: a classic no doubt, which was accompanied by a laser light show etching a dancing Keith in the midst of colourful lights and strobe. And for me, nothing felt better than living out a dream of dancing, and screaming along to the lyrics of ‘No Good (Start the Dance)’ live and in the flesh.

As your eyes scan the crowd between tracks one of the most stand-out things about this audience is its diversity. One of The Prodigy’s greatest successes was their ability to attract fans from across social groups. From metalheads to ravers to punks to indie kids to goths – very few could manage to capture the imagination of such a wide variety of subcultures. In fact the only act that comes to mind in rivalling such abilities are Gorillaz. This speaks volumes to the importance of the band, the ability of the music to create a euphoric unity, and perhaps most significantly in my eyes, to legitimize electronic and rave music to the world of rock.

Chants of “Keith, Keith, Keith” rang around the warehouse as we waited for the band to appear for their encore. Somehow this felt both sombre and joyous, a moment where the audience expressed their adoration for a much loved, much-missed man, a moment where we all knew that Liam and Maxim had done their brother proud. By the end of the show, and the closing notes of ‘Out of Space’ fade out, a mix of exhaustion and ecstasy bears the faces of a crowd dripping with sweat and grinning with bliss. Whether more music is likely in the works for the band going forward is unclear, but one thing that is clear is that 25 years later they still know how to put on a show!

Annie Hackett


Image: Tour poster

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