Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Prodigy @ Reading Festival, Reading

25 August 2002

Headlining the last night of Reading is a fair bit of pressure for any band, no matter how experienced they are on the live circuit. You have 50,000 kids who’ve experienced a weekend of thumping rock music and some excellent sets, and they want something to better it all and send them home happy.

When you’re a band on whom such expectation rests and you haven’t played in the UK for years, the pressure is exacerbated. Prodigy took to the stage presumably expecting an emphatic welcome. What they got was hard work.

Aside from a hard core of fans in the centre, early tracks like Breathe didn’t seem to connect initially, and it took a great deal of time for the set to get going. There was almost no audience interaction from vocalists Maxim and Keith Flint, who seemed often lost for things to do. And Liam Howlett’s habit of pausing for breaks between songs made sure that any momentum each track built was swiftly squandered.

But the material made up for it. A Madness cover, complete with sax, showed they can do ska as well as the next band, and Poison and Smack My Bitch Up got the place pogo-ing as one for all it was worth. Recent single Baby’s Got A Temper also saw elbows waving in washing machine formations. Whatever reservations there might have been about delivery, the crowd had decided to enjoy itself.

Having been away for so long, we had expected a set of new songs, but this read like a ‘best of’ show. Fully half of The Fat Of The Land was played, the set closing with Firestarter and the superb Fuel My Fire.

With the vocalists little more than stage decoration, somehow the music had turned an otherwise average performance into the something special we’d all hoped for by the end.

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