ASUCLA Communications Board
Charisma, stage antics make Prodigy sparkle By Trinh Bui
MUSIC: British techno band kicks off U.S. tour with aggressive sound
Label them "the hope" or "the hype" of the music industry, but after a frenzied set at the Mayan Theater, Prodigy's next label might be"superstars."
For the past few years, Prodigy has become established as a big-time band in their native England, playing huge festivals with traditional guitar bands like Oasis and Blur. Now with good- old England under their belts, the British bad boys of electronica begin a crossover campaign in the United States.
Wednesday night's gig brought together a diverse Los Angeles mob of hip-hoppers, rock 'n' rollers and techno fanatics to the Mayan. Prodigy put on a tightly orchestrated show with loud beats and louder vocals. Breaking away from passive electronic acts, Prodigy's amazingly wild stage presence added another dimension to the show, marking their transition from basic electronica to rock 'n' roll.
DJ Jason Bentley, Southern California's electronica aficionado, warmed up the standing-room only affair with some deejaying. With a huge crowd packed tightly on a small dance floor, it didn't take much for the club to transform into a convection oven. Primed and preheated, the crowd anxiously buzzed for the start of the show.
Liam Howlett graced the stage first with his spiky dyed blond hair. The shy genius behind the sound and words of Prodigy took to the background, caged up in a stack of keyboards and sampling machines. He started the show with a mellow bass mix that lasted a minute before everything hit the fan and the two emcees, Maxim Reality and the"face" of Prodigy, Keith Flint, exploded onto the stage. Flint's attire for the night included his trademark blue and red side-hawks and soccer hooligan outfit, while Reality strutted around bare-chested in a velvet kilt.
Kicking off the concert with "Smack My Bitch Up," a new song from their upcoming record, Reality ranted and raved on the microphone behind a cacophony of sampled music and keyboards while Flint darted around the stage mouthing the lyrics and working the crowd. Even without the microphone, Flint mesmerized the people with his plethora of onstage antics.
Flint is the consummate showman, be it leaning over the stage and egging on the crowd with taunts and the occasional finger or diving into the mosh pit. For all the glitz and fireworks that is Flint, Reality used his words and emcee skills to incite the crowd.
The polar opposite to Flint's hyperactive mannerism, Reality is controlled fury. He sets the tempo during the show and does most of his grandstanding with his words rather than action. The more paternal of the two, Reality takes time out during the performance to give props to Howlett, Leeroy Thornhill, the dancer, and the L.A. crowd. Reality handled most of the shouting for the night but occasionally relinquished the microphone to Flint, who in turn let the air out of his lungs.
The break-beat sounds of Prodigy fully blasted out of the speakers, giving everyone within a mile radius temporary tinnitus. People went berserk when classics like"Poison" and "Breathe" flowed through the sound system. The floor quickly turned into a mosh pit, as sweaty bodies slipped and slid their way around each other. The shear charisma of Prodigy alone got people riled up and showed why these fellows from Braintree, England, could reign supreme over America.
Equipped with two firebrands covering the vocals and a James Brown-worshipping dancer, Prodigy doesn't shy away from the stage. Unlike fellow compatriots the Chemical Brothers and Orbital, who substitute choreographed lighting and visual effects for their lack of stage presence, Prodigy attacks the stage with kinetic dance moves and integrates the audience into the show.
Howlett has been adamant in the press that his band is moving away from the electronica scene and into the rock 'n' roll genre. Backing up his words, Prodigy's play list definitely leaned away from techno. Songs lasted no more than six minutes, and each was composed with a distinct chorus and song structure. Eliminated from the concert were the wispy 10 minute- plus ramblings of noise usually characteristic of a techno show.
Prodigy's appearance at the Mayan Theater indicates the band is dropping the glowsticks and white gloves of the rave scene for the retro-punk look. Ending the show with a 15-minute encore when Flint rode the backs of adoring fans back to the stage, Prodigy, for at least the night, lived up to their billing as the Next Big Thing.