Pandemonium. And that’s just the post-show mosh-pit at the cloakroom.
It’s 9.08pm. The Academy has never looked like this. Well, at least not to these eyes.
‘It’s like being back in the Kop,’ comes a voice behind. Certainly, only Blur and Oasis Britpop peak-era has matched such a pre-gig intensity and crowd carnage these limbs have ever witnessed.
The decks are rolling out tribal DnB, people are blitzed to the eyeballs. Everyone front to the mixer is moving, everyone to the back is wide-eyed and startled at the scene – that’s if they can make it out through the dense plumes of body heat.
To think it’s minus December degrees outside. Inside you’re dripping salty waterfalls upon entry.
The jungle beats transcend into early 90s acid house, when suddenly all is black. Ten long seconds pass before five spectres limber up; like dance warlord prizefighters, each instantly casting recognisable silhouettes.
Wwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaow! Sirens, gut-punch bass and wallop – a room on fire as The Prodigy take care of business.
It’s staggering to think it has been nearly two decades of anarchic dance-punk thrills they’ve been dishing up and even more so when you consider the sights on offer.
Maxim, as he always has been, is an awesome specimen; all rippling contours amid his red-trim blazer, bouncing dreads, white boxing boots pounding the boards and with his matching white war-paint tonight he’s part Nigel Benn part Baron Samedi.
Perhaps an even greater spectacle is dancer-in-crime Keith Flint; where two years ago as the music began to sag, so did he, tonight he’s transformed, shedding his bulk for a quite remarkable physique, which he reveals double-quick. Tossing aside his Vivienne Westwood-style Victorian Gentleman’s hunting jacket with bondage accessories, he’s soon stripping down to athletics vest to showcase his new rippling, near-complete tattooed figure.
As as the pair work up a frenzy, there’s Liam Howlett, stood behind his stack marked ‘Take me to the hospital’ just doing what he does best – producing all that noise. And what a noise.
Opener and newie Worlds On Fire sounds like it could easily slip onto Fat Of The Land, a barnstorm of clattering jerks and buzzsaw guitars neatly segueing into a rampaging Breathe as the crowd sways uncontrollably – many finding solace (if they can) near the rear of the Academy.
Just to emphasise that this isn’t The Prodigy going through the motions, Howlett reworks the smash hit into a dubstep finale, slowing the pace before a cheeky interlude is busted wide open by Omen, another previously unreleased cut from the forthcoming Invaders Must Die.
Like much of the new selections, it’s instantly recognisable as The Prodigy sound, blending the cruel edges and ear-shredding beats, but where their last record Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunnedsounded tired due to their over-reliance on trad-heavy rock and guest vocals, here Howlett readdresses the balance opting in favour of old school dance and hip-hop with cheeky nods to their warehouse days. It’s the kind of set which worked so well on the Dirtchamber sessions; a heady mix of Chicago dance, 80s hip-hop and enough crunchy metal to salivate those with Kerrang! at their hearts.
Indeed, only Spitfire appears from Always Outnumbered…, and while it certainly still packs a meaty punch, it fails to tear apart the senses in the way that Voodoo People (here delivered with such ferocity it sounds like the speakers may fail) and Firestarter, which is tossed out with nonchalent abandon early on.
There’s more reason to eagerly await the March release of Invaders… with the inclusion of Warriors Dance, as Maxim commands the crowd to follow suit in some form of Haka-like stomp imploring, ‘C’mon Liverpool, you’re my fucking warriors, tear this shit up – dance!‘
The pace is unrelenting and it’s little surprise that Keith, after gobbing mouthfuls of water over the front few rows, takes a mini-breather allowing Maxim to hurtle through an incredible reworking of the underrated Mindfields.
By the closing encore, the soaking mass of bodies look like they’ve gone the distance with a Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton and Oscar Dela Hoya dream team. One fella climbs the balcony to join us upstairs saying he’s lost a tooth, ‘but it’s the best night of my life.’
They’ve still time to rage through a triple whammy of Diesel Power, Smack My Bitch Up and a double-funky Poison, before the whole place erupts as Out Of Space boings itself into oblivion. Then Keith wades through the crowd, climbs the mixing desk and vanishes in a whirlwind of inky sweat. You almost expect the room to blow up.
It doesn’t. Instead, the house lights flick on and in some kind of beautifully orchestrated ironic twist Andy Williams‘ Can’t Take My Eyes Off You croons from the speakers, leaving all those headed for the hospital to sing in unison ‘I love you baby!‘
Worlds On Fire
Invaders Must Die
Smack My Bitch Up
Out Of Space
More incredible visuals by Steve Devlin at: http://flickr.com/photos/12528184@N08/tags/theprodigy71208/