An air raid siren sounds and bass starts hammering through the subwoofers with convulsive power. The Prodigy arrive on stage and vocalist Maxim clambers atop a speaker stack where he stands statuesque, bathed in strobes. The opening riff of Breathe begins as live guitarist Rob Holliday, in sleeveless leather, starts slinging his instrument around like an out-of-control chainsaw. Pandemonium is instant.
This run of shows is the band’s first since the death of their vocalist and dancer Keith Flint in 2019, a man whose devil-horned hair became a more recognisable emblem for the Prodigy than their actual ant logo. Such was his stage presence that in the aftermath of his death some wondered whether the band could continue without him – but the showmanship is so powerful here that the audience are clearly not worried.
During Firestarter an outline of Flint (instantly recognisable thanks to the horns) is beamed on to centre stage with lasers, and it dances along with jerky intensity. “He’s still fucking here!” repeats Maxim afterwards, movingly. There is also an impromptu moment when Liam Howlett takes a flag featuring Flint’s silhouette from the audience and holds it aloft as they return for their encore. These are the only nods to their late bandmate but their performance feels like a tribute in itself.
The breadth of bangers at the band’s disposal certainly helps, and they perform them magnificently. Smack My Bitch Up is amped up to unhinged proportions as drummer Leo Crabtree furiously lets loose, and newer tracks such as 2018’s We Live Forever (whose refrain takes on unavoidable new significance without Flint) are delivered with similar energy. By the time they close with the Chase the Devil-sampling Out of Space, dizzy grins adorn the faces of an audience left absolutely spent.
Maxim has always been a magnetic frontman in his own right and remains so tonight, spry on his feet like a sparring boxer as he bounds around the stage. The minute the energy starts to sag in any section of the crowd, he points it out and demands they raise it. There’s an urgency to the Prodigy’s playing that seems to come from somewhere deeper than before: the euphoria and release they provide is overwhelming, and compounded by the enduring presence of a man whose career was spent embodying those qualities.
July 15, 2022 at 07:21PM Patrick Clarke