Witnness Festival 2002
The Prodigy, Saturday, Main Stage (Fairyhouse Racecourse) 15 Jul 2002
The night has finally turned black after one of the sunniest days of the year. The air is filled with pumping hip-hop beats: mood enhancers for the chemical generation. ‘Don’t Believe The Hype’, indeed. Suddenly, the music stops. "DO YOU WANT IT?" screams a voice from the bowels of the backstage area. The crowd roar back in the affirmative. Welcome to Planet Prodigy.
Before you know it, the imposing figure of Maxim Reality has taken centre stage. "It’s been a long time, but it’s never too late," he admonishes the crowd, as if it’s our fault The Prodigy have been away for so long. The drums kick in; Liam Howlett’s trademark screech starts its demonic wail; the guitar is cranked up to mind-altering levels; and Keith Flint is pounding across the stage like an Olympic athlete possessed by some ancient evil.
Maxim and Keith play no good cop/bad cop routine: these boys are bad to the bone and they are intent on dragging the assembled masses down into the pit with them. "This ain’t no fucking game son," spits Maxim at one point. Later, during an appropriately incendiary ‘Firestarter’, the dreadlocked vocalist is shadowboxing with one of the security guards to the right of the stage, before going one step further, and pushing him.
During ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, both vocalists end up in the security pit that separates the audience from the stage, Flint returning draped in a tri-colour, while his colleague is again rubbing the security personnel up the wrong way.
Current single, ‘Baby’s Got A Temper’ is similarly in-yer-face and hostile. There is something disconcerting about seeing kids, perched on their parents’ shoulders, punching the air in time to the chant of "Rohypnol. Rohypnol. " How many people knew it related to the infamous drug associated with date rape? How many cared?
The pace rarely slows below frantic, and yet it all gets a bit samey and predictable by the third quarter, not to mention confusing, when Maxim opines that "This ain’t no funfair shit. This ain’t no coffee percolator shit". Nobody’s quite sure what the fuck he is talking about; maybe he doesn’t know himself.
Thankfully, they raise the tempo yet again for a breakneck finale, Maxim howling like a ravaged she-wolf while Flint roars about how he has both the poison and the remedy: if this man was your local GP, you’d stay at home sick for fuck’s sake. The lightshow flickers and flashes, the beats pump and effects crash, and yet all too soon it’s over: no goodbyes, no bows and it seems the Foo Fighters have used up the day’s quota of fireworks. Still, as ever, The Prodigy live are a bloody unique experience. Send them home sweating? Bollocks: they send them home bleeding.