O2 Brixton Academy, London
21 December 2017
With the promise of a new album in 2018, The Prodigy recently embarked on a European mini-tour which included three dates at London’s O2 Brixton Academy. Paul Grace reports back from an exhilarating opening show.
It was the early 90’s when The Prodigy hit the rave circuit with their crossover hit, Charly; a tongue in cheek fusion of jungle breakbeat, Beltram-style hoover stabs and a vocal sample nicked from a kid’s safety awareness ad. The track, of course, was designed to enhance the effects of whatever the listener was under the influence of, and rather ironically it peaked at number three in the UK charts; its commercial success a reflection of the lightning speed at which the underground dance scene was exploding.
The Prodigy went on to conquer the UK and global dance scenes with multiple top ten hits plus five UK number one albums. With the promise of a new album in 2018, The Prodigy recently embarked on a mini-tour of Europe finishing up with three sell out nights at London’s O2 Brixton Academy.
As I arrive on the first night, the Academy’s packed and the thick fog of sweat you normally see at the end of a gig is already visible even before the band have hit the stage! It’s been two years since The Prodigy last played in the capital and the anticipation is fast approaching fever pitch. At 9.15pm, the house lights dip as the intro tune from A Clockwork Orange filters through the PA which is barely audible over the deafening screams.
Arriving with all the swagger of Burgess’ Droogs, The Prodigy launch into an electrifying Omen and the breakneck pace is well and truly set. It’s a manic but thrilling show with Keith Flint sporting trademark mohican and braces; he roams the stage like a man possessed, while MC Maxim is a vision of menacing voodoo with UV paint daubed over his face. The onslaught of thunderous breakbeats, rap, bass and synth crashes like a force 10 hurricane and the frenzied atmosphere takes us back to the very core of the birth of rave. The production is equally dazzling of course with retina-burning spotlights, strobes and endless clouds of dry ice.
A distorted screech indicates the start of Firestarter and a hole is metaphorically ripped through the Academy roof. At times it even feels like the walls are physically bouncing! Flint is a fabulous frontman, there’s occasional chat but his gruesome facial expressions are sufficient banter. The main show comes to a crashing climax with a rousing Smack My Bitch Up but the boys return for a four track encore finishing up with a brief rendition of Out Of Space.
A truly breathtaking if exhausting show, perhaps verging on the darker side of pantomime comedy at times, but a highly credible performance nevertheless that confirms The Prodigy are still very much at the top of their game.