Prodigy live in India – Review by our Indian correspondent Karan Pradhan

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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 ”” 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 ”” 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.

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  1. I arrived in town with my family the day before. We experienced the traffic which I thought was quite orderly. Perhaps Karan lives in some peaceful backwater paradise but compared to the traffic in Vadodara it was very orderly even if it was very congested and slow. Anyway not really interested in the traffic are we. The truth is that the concert was a stonking success. at least from “The Prodigy” point of view…. I wasn’t very interested in the bands that went before. Not enough ‘tension’ in the music. I have a very eclectic interest in music but I rate The Prodigy’s energy and skill for engaging the adrenalin pump along with Jimi Hendrix, and Handel. Although the crowd was smaller than they were expecting it was a happy crowd and very energetic.

    My son was bemused but also excited and happy to be thrust to the front by friendly hands. It must have been like seeing some aliens invading from Saturn. A girl next to us handed him a glow stick. While sitting astride my shoulders, as he is only eight and wouldn’t see anything otherwise, he waved his glow stick meekly at these fire breathing, Sulfur belching monsters of music, as if imploring them not to zap us with death rays. Next to us a fellow Gujarati helped us grab the safety fence as we jumped to the beat.

    The whole crowd was writhing with fists reaching for the sky. All around were inane grins of ecstatic pleasure as though they were partaking in some arcane ritual summoning up fierce spirits from the nether-regions in the bowls of the earth. Some just looked mesmerised with eyes widened in expectant pleasure and lips firmly shut in concentration. Near the stage many in the crowd were mouthing the words, probably shouting the words but unheard against the blasting power of the sound system. They were taking part in a demonic litany thrusting forward like frenzied zombies baying for flesh… or music sprayed on them with the force of a riot control water cannon.

    Then it was all over…. the cool evening was almost silent… the crowd quickly dispersed… we went back stage in the hope of meeting the band. We had met Biddu and his wife earlier in the VIP lounge. He had told us about his son arranging the the event and it was nice to meet them. Then Leo came out and we had a laugh when I said he looked Ghost like behind the drums. His sideburns making him look like a ghost from the colonial Raj (or even like an extra from all the recent British bashing serials about the colonial days here in India). We met Liam and he was smoking a beedee. A couple of snaps and asked him if they planning to spend some time in India but he said he had to get back to the family in London. He commented on how loud it was on stage and how he used earplugs for the first time in ages. Keith was more spaced out… looked like he was still coming down and in some kind of limbo… it felt as though he needed some space to chill out and he quickly disappeared into the artist’s tent… so it was over. My wife had enjoyed the show form the VIP platform as she cannot stand and uses a wheelchair. She commented how the whole platform was shaking so much that she was ‘dancing’ in her chair! We went back to the hotel still buzzing. I am so happy that we could do this.

    My parents took me to the first Glastonbury when I was six. It was etched in my memory. Now Zack’s first concert will be hard to live up to. In fact when Zack met Maxim and Rob at the airport Rob said to Zack “… how are you going to better this!”. Behind their fierce visage on stage they are all family guys and gave Zack autographs. Thanks to the band, thanks to the organisers and the wonderful crowd for making it an intense and soul shivering experience!

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