Review of The Prodigy at Wembley Arena: Quite good.
Slightly more informative review: Given that going to see an electronic rock/breakbeats act warrants more than a series of complaints about the length of the queue to get in, it seemed relevant to at least remark on the fact it ever took place.
Housemate James & I made our way out to the former swimming pool, and after an hour and 15 minutes of queueing found ourselves inside the venue on the arena floor, just in time to miss nearly the entire set by warmup Dizzee Rascal. And those are the most emotionally charged words you’re ever gonna read from me on that topic.
I could tell as soon as we got in there that this gig wasn’t gonna be a high beer-consumption evening. The tipoffs were firstly that I was there with James, who believes he’s allergic to alcohol and fish. Secondly, the number of people holding glowsticks indicated that the crowd at this gig wasn’t likely to be reliant on beer for their giggles. Thirdly, the density of people per square metre meant that getting to and from the bar would prove complicated. Fourthly, the ridiculous system the venue had devised to stop seated ticketholders reaching arena level was to only have one door open to enter the arena, meaning that were I to fight my way out for a beer, it would mean another 20 minutes of queueing to get back in – during which time I’d have drunk most of that beer. But I suppose the most obvious clue, clearly supporting Secondly, was that every 20 minutes or so a man would belligerently push his way transversely across the venue shouting “Pills? Pills? Pills?” to anyone in the locale.
So one hugely obvious thing about The Prodigy is the amount of bass they crank out. Heaving, seriously. Like, making all your armhairs vibrate and tickle a bit. Not that that was a problem for long, as the amount of sweat in the air soon stuck them down. But still – Wow. Visually it was extremely impressive as well, with a sort of developing visual thing going on – to start with there were spotlights, then there were more lights, then there were big pairs of lights above the main lot that looked a bit like cartoon eyes. Then there were horizontal stripes, a bit Knight Rider-esque. Then there were vertical strips. Then the back opened up to reveal a monochrome screen, which went on to actually become coloured. Exceptional!
As with my foray into this arena with The Chemical Brothers back in 2005, it was a bit unusual being the only one in the venue looking around wondering if there wasn’t a place I could get a nice cold Guinness. There was one bloke who must’ve seen my plaintive look and came over saying “Anything? I can get you anything at all…”, but he didn’t appear to have a refrigerant system about his person. He went on to shout “Pills?” at us some more, so I suspect his market research had only prepared him for one response to the question “Anything?”. So because I was in-the-room it struck me that The Prodigy are a little limited lyrically. “Firestarter” seems a veritable Odyssey compared to many of their other offerings. “Breathe” features about 17 words, whereas the crowd-popular “The Horns of Jericho” appeared only to comprise the titular 4 words. “Voodoo People” was a fraction repetitive, but taking the biscuit was the ambivalently reacted to “Comanche” – there appeared to be only one lyric to that, of three syllables. Any guesses?
It’s a bit cheeky of me to complain about songs not having many lyrics, given that when songs *do* have lyrics I either tend to ignore them or not understand them, preferring to get into the tune more than anything. For some reason this was an exception – whether it was because of the dearth of lyrics or melody, or because I was getting tired of Maxim shouting at us. He seemed content with trying to involve the audience by addressing us as “My party people” (that was the people in the seats), “My warriors” (the people on arena floor), and occasionally, “My London people” (both groups): after identifying which group was being addressed he’d instruct us to jump up and down, or put our arms in the air… this seemed a bit of a no brainer, as 80% of the punters were already doing at least one of these things. Whether he was already compensating for a reduced list of possible responses and only limiting his instructions to those things is hard to say. James and I, of course, did neither of these things – no sense in contributing to any Messianic feeling the guy was already getting by having almost 12000 people following his instructions.
As already mentioned the setlist was a mix of old Top 40 favourites and new stuff from the recent album, Invaders Must Die. The eponymous song from that was full of the sort of lyrical wizardry we’ve come to expect by now, and though the visuals suggested arcade games as the theme, the section of crowd I was in started to grow disturbingly BNP: loads of bare-torsoed skinheaded blokes pumped up with adrenaline and shouting “INVADERS MUST DIE”, with looks on their faces suggesting that any invaders in the area would be advised to keep a low profile. “Breathe” came out very early in the set, as did “Firestarter” – leaving one wondering what they’d stick in the inevitable encore. The main set finished with the fairly forgettable “Comanche”, which seemed almost devoid of crowd reaction other than the now constant jumping up and down. “Smack My Bitch Up” turned out to be the closer for the evening, and with that thought dancing around our minds we were poured out into the chilly evening air for the pilgrimage back to Wembley Park Station. The tube train back must’ve looked to an outsider like some kind of obscene phonecaller’s convention, as nearly every window was steamed up due to the litres of sweat still pouring out of those punters.
Well at least it was worth a look at. As I said earlier, it was quite good.