“He’s always fucking here! He’s still fucking here! He hasn’t fucking left us!” thunders The Prodigy‘s chest-pounding vocalist Maxim. The band have just delivered an instrumental version of ‘Firestarter’ inside Liverpool’s Mountford Hall to go alongside their late frontman Keith Flint‘s indelible battle cry (“I’m the trouble-starter, punkin’ instigator!”) when, through the smoke, steam and strobing lasers, the unmistakable frontman’s silhouette, complete with neon-green hair prongs, takes centre stage once more.
Amid the euphoria, sweat and tears, we don’t need to be told that Flint’s spirit is here with us this evening: it’s felt through every pummelling bassline, every snarling guitar riff and every bit of love in the room. Though the opening sirens of The Prodigy’s definitive rave anthem threaten to reduce the 2300-capacity student hall to rubble, the 1996 track takes on a profound and alien poignancy in the face of pure anarchy. The message is clear: Flint’s anarchic flame is needed now more than ever, and, thankfully, his brothers Maxim and Liam Howlett are here to lash a love-felt jerry can of diesel on it.
When announcing their first tour since their frontman’s 2019 passing, the band cited the 25th anniversary of their seminal album ‘The Fat Of The Land’ as being the right time to do so, saying “we can’t wait to get back on-stage to play our tunes for the people again.” These words ring true tonight (July 14) as The Prodigy hit the stage to a carnival atmosphere in the sweltering venue, kicking off a hit-packed set with ‘Breathe’ – but not before their ringleader of mayhem, Maxim, soaks in the eruption of applause and adoration which marks their first return to the stage in four years.
“Yeah! We’re the fucking Prodigy, people,” Maxim beams to his tribe before tearing into their adrenaline-fuelled 2009 anthem ‘Omen’. An actual heatwave might be on the way, but the thermostat in the room has surely blown: the venue’s fire doors are flung open and the band oblige in lashing bottles of water across the crowd like Major League Baseball players.
A sense of community and togetherness pulses through the set which dips gleefully into every one of the band’s albums to date. The night never loses its relentless intensity: as Maxim departs, synth alchemist Howlett takes the spotlight as a reprise of ‘Warrior’s Dance’ bleeds into the gritty, thumping bass of ‘Voodoo People’. There’s also a sense of the surreal in the air witnessing the well-versed and bonafide festival headliners return to the university circuit, as if rolling back the years to their 90s breakthrough era as immediate champions of the rave scene.
As the set progresses, The Prodigy serve up reminder after reminder of why they’ve been at the forefront of the rave scene for three decades and counting. It’s as exhilarating as ever as the chugging, metal-indebted riffs of ‘Their Law’ cut through; its glitchy synths sending the steamy masses bouncing in unison. Elsewhere, ‘No Good’ pulses through into a cathartic 90s rave which segues into ‘Poison’ to which the crowd boom back: “I got the pulsating rhythmical remedy.”
Born party-starter Maxim, staring into the front few rows before drenching them with water, hails “all my hot and fucking sweaty people here tonight” as the band launch into their main set-closer ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, which gets one of the biggest responses of the night. Upon their return to the stage, chants of “Keith! Keith! Keith!” ripple around the venue as Howlett proudly holds aloft a Jolly Roger flag emblazoned with Flint’s iconic trim. They close on a flurry of ‘Take Me To The Hospital’ (its bass capable of setting off car alarms on The Albert Dock) and ‘Invaders Must Die’, which swells around the room with its warped vocal: “We are The Prodigy!”
The scuzzy, twisted synths of ‘We Live Forever’ then ring out as Maxim growls with fevered passion: “We’re here, it’s now / We live forever / The time has come, we live forever.” As the track fizzes out, the vocalist reminds the audience: “We Live Forever: understand those words!” A mass sing-along for ‘Out Of Space’ then closes a glorious night that’s seen a band navigate the most challenging and emotional circumstances to return to the top of their game.
Though tonight is all about looking back musically, it also says a lot about the next chapter of The Prodigy, who are as pummelling, relentless and devastating as ever. Uniting a misfit crowd of ravers and metalheads alike to celebrate life and legacy, their flame is burning brighter than ever. Not only are The Prodigy back, they’re here to reclaim their throne.
The Prodigy played:
‘Light Up The Sky’
‘Everybody In The Place’
‘Get Your Fight On’
‘Smack My Bitch Up’
‘Take Me To The Hospital’
‘Invaders Must Die’
‘We Live Forever’
‘Out Of Space’