“Where are my people at?” exclaimed Keith Flint as The Prodigy’s show at the SEC began on a cold Friday night in November. As became quickly apparent as soon as the opening drum beats of their iconic hit Breathe played, “his people” were everywhere in this packed crowd. And if it was ever necessary to win over the crowd, The Prodigy certainly delivered with a pulsating show that lived up to their reputation.
The venue of the SEC seemed like the perfect fit – I had previously seen another “big beat” icon of the 90s, The Chemical Brothers, in this same venue and the large open space allowed the kind of jumpy sweatfest that these groups live for. And the venue proved its worth, including a captivating stage display with London buses that had their final destination listed as “No tourists”, coinciding with the name and cover of their brand new album. In a way, it could also be considered a pointed joke at the audience of the gig itself, as there were certainly few casual “tourist” fans amongst them. The demographics of the attendees seemed to learn more toward the middle-aged: individuals who remember the peak years and are reliving their youth, in a certain sense. Indeed, the setlist gravitated toward the older classics such as Voodoo People rather than some of their less revered newer material. That’s not to say there wasn’t some recent tunes included, such as Nasty (which I had a great time jumping along to), but The Prodigy focused on the legacy they’ve managed to build up over the past decades, and rightfully so.
One of the very few surprises of the night came when Firestarter played around four songs in. Some would see this as a point of criticism – anyone who plays their biggest hit should leave it for last to end it on a high, they might argue – but I saw it as a way of subverting traditional expectations, and that is something The Prodigy have done from the very start of their careers. The startling red light show that accompanied the song gave an almost otherworldly feeling, and in that moment, you felt as if you could have been in that iconic music video, inside the tunnel with the evil face of Flint shouting at you. It was going to be hard to top it, and they never really did.
Maxim alongside Flint did their best to gee up the crowd, including name-dropping Glasgow and Scotland in attempts to get some riotous applause. Some of these worked better than others, and it seemed as if everyone wanted less chat and more music. They then duly delivered, and pints were thrown into the air with glee. Both men helped the atmosphere by their tireless movement across the stage, inciting the SEC to jump around with them.
A slightly more reserved mid-section followed, with the crowd just slightly more stationary than they had been in the beginning. But any sense of slacking stopped when No Good (Start the Dance) played and everyone went wild again. From then on, it was a strong finish, and previous complaints about that mid-section are quickly forgotten. The only problem of course is that nobody wanted it to end, and when the lights went up there was a sense of disappointment that the party that thousands of us had decided to attend had actually just finished.
The performance probably won’t win over the cynics and critics, although it wasn’t designed to. The Prodigy played knowing their audience and what they wanted, and so they gave them everything and just a little bit more. It’s true that they will probably never have chart hits again, although they would likely be the first to accept that times have changed. What does not change however, is fans, and there are still many of them out there that appreciate what an amazing night they can produce. So don’t you dare mock me and my dancing alongside drunken dads who should know better by now – I loved every bloody minute of it.