The Prodigy have just played a bunch of festivals in India. Louder Than War's Indian correspondent Karan Pradhan was there...
Braintree's finest were minutes away from exploding onto the stage. The multi-ethnic audience with denizens from all across the world had spent all afternoon and evening dancing, pogoing, moshing and even pretending to play basketball with an invisible ball, hoop and opponent (don't ask). Indian electronica titans Pentagram had wrapped up their set and the crowd was chomping at the bit for The Prodigy. Suddenly, a section of Max Romeo's I Chase The Devil began playing over the public address system. The words "I'm gonna send him to outta space, to find another race" sent everyone into frenzied screams, roars and cheers. However, what followed over the course of the next 30 or so minutes had certain sections of the audience losing interest, others saw their energy levels drop and in some cases, audience members were baying for the blood of one man ”â Heavy G.
But first, let me set the scene. It's been just over a week since The Prodigy stamped their collective Godzilla-sized boot upon Indian shores as the headliners of the Eristoff Invasion and the aftershocks have yet to fade. I was fortunate enough to catch Liam, Maxim and Keith in action in the lovely South Indian city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore). Buttressed by local artistes Vachan Chinappa and the Bay Beat Collective, the lineup included Pendulum performing a DJ set, Pentagram and of course, Heavy G.
The Garden City (as Bengaluru is known) is as the name suggests, a lush green haven for outdoor shows. It's a shame that the same can't be said about the shockingly moronic and at times, suicide-inducingly frustrating traffic prevalent throughout the city. Thanks to some inch-a-minute crawling amidst the gridlock, I arrived at the city's sprawling Palace Grounds at around the end of BBC's set. (Note: No comment on whether that was a lucky miss or an unfortunate oversight).
Pendulum has been on a number of tours with The Prodge and it showed. Even with the performance comprising only DJ Paul Harding spinning records, the crowd gradually began to come to life and an initially sparse Palace Grounds slowly began to resemble the sort of pulsating venue that has hosted Iron Maiden, Sepultura, Megadeth and Machine Head among others. But back to Invasion and less than half a track into his set and Paul already had the crowd won over with some pounding beats, energetic basslines and varying tempos. Which was all well and good, but then late into his set, Paul went ahead and clamped a vice-like grip on the crowd by its short and curlies when he unravelled a supreme remix of Metallica's Master of Puppets. It's pretty safe to say that Paul rode off into the sunset with a wide triumphant grin on his face.
He was followed by a surprisingly and curiously mellower-than-usual Pentagram. Having seen Pentagram on umpteen earlier occasions including a couple of shows in December, this did not seem to be the same band I recalled. The most obvious difference was the lack of the band's talismanic tune Ten, which has been the band's pumped-up opening track for many-a-year. So why ditch the track at a massive show like this? Because the live version of Ten generously samples The Prodigy's own track Wake Up Call. Dohh! But a few hundred others and me needn't have worried, because a couple or so tracks in, it was the Pentagram of old ripping it up the Pentagram way, showcasing a clutch of tracks from their forthcoming album that's set to hit the stands in February.
This is where we came in. After starting with I Chase the Devil, Mr G continued to put out track after track of what could politely be described as commercial house remixes (I know what I'd call it and it wouldn't go down well on a family website like this one) and all the while the audience's enthusiasm began to flag. I don't know if the man had struck up a deal with the bartenders but the bars enjoyed the healthiest patronage during his set. I was told later by someone on the inside that Heavy G's DJed at over 90 shows with The Prodigy and his job was to bring energy levels down a notch so that they didn't peak before the main event hit the stage. Well, he did a stonking job if that's his job description.
Once his set was done and laid to rest, the exodus from the bars to the front of the stage began as the smoke machines belched out smoke (obviously) that took on a yellow hue, almost as if it was emanating from a fire. And after hours of waiting for them, The Prodigy strolled casually onto the stage to the sounds of World's on Fire. Fortunately, the casual strolling didn't last very long as the pint-sized Rottweiler-esque Keith Flint and the taller, lithe and no less menacing Maxim Reality took over proceedings with all the subtlety and tranquillity of a cricket bat across one's face. The thousands alongside me who looked on in awe finally felt the force of that 5000 kg of equipment and the 92 moving lights (a first for India) that were brought in for this show.
As Diesel Power, Voodoo People, Take Me to The Hospital, Smack My Bitch Up (of course) and other classic slices from The Prodigy's catalogue come rolling out on stage, the band shows no signs of letting up whether in terms of intensity, quality or brutality. As if by magic, Heavy G was no more than a bad memory as Liam and the boys belted out a Greatest Hits set ”â perfect for a crowd that had probably never seen The Prodigy live before. An hour and a half went by in next to no time with the band leaving no stone unturned, no track unplayed, no dry seats in the house and just like that The Prodigy's date with Bengaluru was over. A slightly weak undercard notwithstanding, the first edition of Invasion was undoubtedly a very encouraging success.
Now it was just a case of negotiating that horrid traffic again.