Believe the hype…don’t believe the hype… believe the hype… don’t… apply that to both bands tonight, rinse and repeat.
The Prodigy just racked up yet another number one album and Public Enemy, well, they’re Public Enemy; they sounded great on that Channel 4 sports advert the other year, but whether they’ve gone from recent Paralympic heroes to geriatric ones remains to be seen.
As does the question of whether the Security of the First World will appear complete with dummy guns as per – with attendant possibility, in the wake of the horrors in Paris, of an immediate and panicked stampede for the exits down the front row.
Possibly; however both groups have been sticking two fingers up to the musical establishment for years now so extending that belligerence and distinct lack of kowtowing to those who would do down an innocent culture of pleasure seems a consensus shared.
A lo… there they are when Chuck D, Flavor Flav, DJ Lord et al take the stage; camp as a row of tits [as always] but strutting around in quasi-militaristic fashion – albeit without weaponry tonight – with the occasional age-appropriate amble thrown in.
And it’s an ambling performance all in to be honest – wonderful to hear ‘Rebel Without a Pause’, ‘Fight The Power’ and ‘Harder Than You Think’ live and direct but, hampered by pretty dreadful and muddy sound it’s the feeling of being glad to have seen a band rather than of actually being impressed with the performance.
Perhaps most affecting is Flav (miraculously on stage and not still wandering around an airport with his carrier bags as is his want) making an impassioned plea for tolerance along with, yes indeed, sticking those two fingers up – literally – at concepts (racism and separatism) and people (yup, racists and separatists).
Coupled with The Hydro being previously lit up as the French Tricolor after the events in France it’s invigorating, but also touching.
Less emotive, but no less notable is a fan somehow making herself heard amongst a rather large percentage of the hefty crowd in the face of an MC asking for the 49th time whether, “hip hop people are in the house?”
A curt, “Will you shut the fuck up and get on with it?!”, sees that one off at the pass.
Overall though, the sense is of a gig ticked off a list of must-sees rather than a joyous and satisfying event in its own right, which is as damned near the most polar of polar opposites compared to what follows from The Prodigy.
Not really knowing what to expect from Liam and co in their similarly advanced years: let’s just say this – they… are… the… real… deal.
Extraordinary set from the get go: beginning with ‘Breathe’, by song three we’re already onto ‘Firestarter’; no compromise, no let up, primal and raw.
It may be largely electronic – though there are live drums and guitar – but the crunching mayhem is as punk rock as punk can be.
And mayhem it is: surveying the seething mass down below with drinks chucked, t-shirts torn, umbrellas(!) flung… there’s an end of the world vibe about the whole scene; particularly when combined with the roar from onstage.
Lyrics are spat with venom by a stalking Maxim and twitching Keith Flint, the light show is flat out bonkers and right in centre, orchestrating the chaos, is Mr. Howlett; master of all he surveys in amongst banks of keyboards and a camera shoved in his face.
It’s impossible not to react to: an accomplice who is familiar with only a couple of their songs is soon smacking knees in bouncy glee; heck, I wouldn’t even describe myself as a fan but, but… the carnage-inducing craziness can’t be ignored.
A brief lurk outside in the foyer reveals several young fans panting and with considerably less clothes on than they arrived in; nonplussed staff members look on.
‘Voodoo People’ with it’s strangulated guitar sample encapsulates it all; twisted and contorted, a juggernaut of power but, in its own grippingly fucked up way, really rather sophisticated all the same.
If I were an 18 year old in the pit of humanity beneath us I’d be waiting a long long time to better this battering ram of a gig.
The notes say, “Can’t argue with this” – and you really can’t.
Confounding expectations… brilliant, just absolutely brilliant.
Words: Vosne Malconsorts
Photos: Stewart Fullerton