Their first full tour since 1997 and Prodigy set about reclaiming their techno-rock-rave-punk space from the opening bars of Wake Up, from this summer’s Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.
“It’s been too fucking long!” yelled co-front man Maxim, tonight sporting a fetching frilly PVC dress. The audience at this first of Prodigy’s two dates at the Brixton Academy yelled their agreement – various side projects have distracted the leading members. The new record appeared sans the vocal talents of either Maxim or co-MC Keith Flint, as main man Liam Howlett opted instead for such luminaries as Liam Gallagher and Juliette Lewis.
But tonight, something like normal service was resumed as everyone’s favourite spiky-haired suburban firestarter was back on stage alongside Maxim. Keith Flint is looking a little portly these days, but he’s lost none of his considerable stage presence as a front man par excellence. He still resembles an angry demon delighting in having stolen a Corn Flakes packet from your kitchen table.
Behind them both, secure in his fortress of keyboards, Howlett let rip with Prodigy’s trademark dirty synth noises over thumping bass. A drummer added extra beats to stage right, with a guitarist stage left – but neither Miss Lewis or Mr Gallagher were in evidence.
The headliners, presumably not wanting to appear to rely on their back catalogue, didn’t air much from the first two albums, but a notable exception was Poison, which sounded as good now as it did a decade ago. Tracks from the new album were interspersed with some lovehandles from The Fat Of The Land.
Breathe predictably rocked the house from floor to ceiling, and the balcony trembled, while Firestarter had young converts and longtime fans alike bouncing in the aisles as Flint snarled and jumped about. Such was the pace that Maxim leant against walls and even appeared to sit down at one point.
Of the new material, the singles Spitfire and Hotride were easy to learn and kept the set slamming along. But there was a palpable drop in energy levels from the audience during some of the most recent stuff – maybe Always Outnumbered’s tracks need time to find their fans and bed in to their consciousness.
A short encore featured set closer Smack My Bitch Up, before the tempo wound down and the house lights snapped on. Albeit a little slower and plumper around the edges, Prodigy are back – and they’re still a visceral visual experience pedalling some of the most infectious dance numbers anywhere.