Run with the wolves while I hunt like a hound..
I’d booked tickets for Prodigy ages ago and kinda forgotten about it – subsequent Ferocious Dog tour marathoning has rendered me pretty much without holiday now so it was a straight-from-work driving job. Ella and I met up with Phil in Nottingham and headed on to the venue, Nottingham’s Ice Arena, a fairly characterless carbuncle of an arena. Once in we were directed outside to join a monstrous queue for those of us with standing tickets (one of the bouncers inside did clock my Ferocious Dog hoody though!)
Seeing Prodigy at the G-Mex centre in Manchester back in 1997 was my first ‘proper’ gig really – I was with Phil then too, funnily enough. We had naively made our way to the front for a good vantage point, getting smashed around the mosh pit during the support act – some band called the Foo Fighters – before Prodigy took the stage. My then girlfriend passed out at some point during their set meaning we watched the second half from the medical area while she recovered.
But well, you live and you learn – whilst I’m a fan of being up close and personal in my general gig going this one was always going to be one to appreciate from a distance so upon gaining entry past the zealous and unfriendly arena staff we were faced with a pretty packed floor space and Public Enemy already underway. Eventually we settled in a spot not far from the exit around level with the mixing desk, occasionally being impolitely compelled to move in by some jobsworth harpy with a radio.
I had been looking forward to seeing Chuck D and Flavor Flav do their thing, but whether I wasn’t in the right mood, they weren’t on form or other factors I didn’t really enjoy their set at all. I was briefly swayed when their accompanying DJ started dropping White Stripes and Nirvana songs but it was a fleeting relief. It came to a close with a bizarre sermon-like preach-fest (nice sentiments all, but well, they’d already lost me I’m afraid) before the lights dimmed and we waited..
Cheers erupted periodically as stage technician shadows and torches flitted around the stage – after about half an hour or so the stage was quite literally set. The fairly vanilla lighting for the support act erupted into a dramatic and vibrant light show as Prodigy pulled no punches, launching immediately into Breathe. Keith and Maxim were joined on stage by a guitarist, backed up by a drummer and Liam – the demented puppet master genius controlling his evil charges with relentless sound.
Sometimes changes to songs had a pause, other times blended seamlessly – each seemed to have their own colour scheme and light arrangement programmed. It was actually pretty mesmerising and I didn’t regret for a minute a combination of poorliness, tiredness and admittedly laziness making me stand back a bit just to take it in. I even felt a tinge of envy toward those watching from on high in the seated areas – this was a visual spectacle as much as it was a music concert. That said it was nice to be able to dance about a bit.
Breathe opened up the set getting the crowd going from the start, with Keith and Maxim snarling alternating lyrics into their mics immediately. Nasty, Omen and Wild Frontier quickly followed before the crowd went crazy as Firestarter dropped. Looking at the set list, around two-thirds of it were from their latest two albums, nine of ’em – just shy of half – from the album being toured, The Day Is My Enemy. I suppose it is the tour for that album!
Roadblox, Rok-Weiler, The Day Is My Enemy and Beyond The Deathray were hit at us in quick succession before Voodoo People gave us a nostalgic trip back to Jilted. Even further back it was ace to hear a re-imagined version of Everybody In The Place. Whilst I’ve enjoyed Prodigy’s latest releases if I were being proper picky I’d have liked to have had a few more classics thrown into the mix, but it’s a small complaint – the new tracks stand up well.
The set wound on relentlessly with Get Your Fight On, Run With The Wolves, Invaders Must Die and Medicine, winding down with the anthemic yet still uncomfortably misogynistic Smack My Bitch Up. Part way through the set I’d been privy to a probably set list from earlier gigs on the tour so I was getting quite excited to get prepared for the final track – it was to prove a bit of an anticlimax in the end, but still.
We weren’t kept waiting long for the finale. Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods fame joined them for a run through of Ibiza – I have a confession here, I don’t really like Sleaford Mods. Soon enough though he was retreating from the stage to let them rip through Their Law, Wall of Death and Take Me To The Hospital blended into tantalising stabs and vocals samples from Out of Space – but alas, the song itself never kicked in, it all faded out and the house lights were up almost instantaneously along with background music, our signal to join the scrum to get back outside into the cold.
Disappointing though the lack of a full Out of Space experience was (I’ll be upset if Jason’s cameo took its place), it was still a bloody ace gig – arena gigs aren’t really my bag these days but it’s nice to try something different from time to time. A real blend of people in terms of age and look, a largely friendly crowd – and the only way you’ll get a light show like that would be at a larger and more soulless venue. The queueing was a pain, the staff officious and impolite, but well, the musical and visual feast more than made up for it.
On the way out my Ferocious Dog clothing was again noted by a fellow crowd member – we chatted about how much we were looking forward to Saturday’s gig at Rock City. With Ella and I both feeling a bit rough from one of the many strains of tour lurgy doing the rounds it was good to get home and sorted before midnight. Prodigy definitely still have ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is – this wasn’t simply a nostalgia ride, the bulk of their set was their newer material after all. But anyway, now all eyes are on Saturday night.