The Prodigy roar back to life at House of Blues

A review of The Prodigy at the House of Blues on May 20, 2009

, Staff Writer

The Prodigy are back, and in a big way. Their new album, Invaders Must Die, represents a sweeping return to form for the dance trio, going back to the huge beats and scorching guitar riffs that made Fat Of The Land such a success. The band itself is incredibly proud of the album, and their energy reaches a grand climax in the live arena. It’s no surprise, then, that when The Prodigy visited the House of Blues this past Wednesday they brought some serious noise with them. They’ve been touted as one of the bands you must see live before dying, and demonstrated exactly why with a loud, boisterous set that proudly proclaimed their return to the scene nearly twelve years after their supposed creative peak.

The set opened with “World’s On Fire”, a fan favorite of Invaders featuring a “burning” guitar blaring at the start of every measure. MCs Maxim and Keith Flint shouted into the microphones, dancing violently from one side of the stage to the other while Liam Howlett laid down the humongous mass of sound that was the song’s beat. It was an opener that kicked off the energy to an extreme degree, and got everyone in the venue dancing immediately. Featuring an impeccable breakdown-to-buildup, everyone in attendance was instantly swept up by the whirlwind Maxim had spoken of. Lights flashed in big fashion, matching the intensity of the song. The Prodigy’s light show is just as impressive as the music, and did a lot to bolster a performance that carried plenty of energy on its own. “World’s On Fire” promptly followed with “Their Law”, a throwback to Music For The Jilted Generation, a drumbeat with flavorings of 90s hip-hop giving it away as an earlier track. Juxtaposed against the newer tune showed just how legitimate The Prodigy’s sound has always been: in spite of being fifteen years old, “Their Law” rocked just as hard as anything put out this year.

When the unmistakable opening riff of “Breathe” kicked in, everyone instantly knew what song was being played and a loud cheer rose up above the raucous noise blaring out of the speakers. Hearing an old favorite ramped up the energy levels even more, and we were pretty assuredly underway at this point. The band’s first three songs established a pretty high level of energy that pervaded throughout the set, circumventing the U-shaped structure most band’s sets followed: there were no dips in intensity – The Prodigy did not give the crowd any breathing room (no pun intended).

The relentlessness of their performance was a great aspect of it, to be sure. The show very-much felt like an actual sonic assault on the ears of the listener. Totally badass is really the only way I can think to begin to accurately describe the way the set progressed. Seeing the trio up on stage having the time of their lives even further got the audience into the performance. The actual “set” portion of the set was a paltry ten songs, clocking in at just under an hour, closing down with “Commanche (The Big Gundown)”, off the Lost Beats EP, which came as a bonus disc to Invaders Must Die.

The encore that followed, however, may have been the longest encore I’ve seen at a show, stretching for five songs and nearly another half-hour, basically another half-set that even followed its own musical structure. It was mostly a collection of songs that everyone wanted to hear, starting with the title track off of Invaders Must Die, with a beat so heavy and loud that bouncing up and down violently was the only way to possibly respond to the music. The common refrain of “invaders must die” was all the more badass to hear live. They followed with “Diesel Power”, in which Maxim more than compensated for the lack of Kool Keith running vocal detail, as he does on the studio cut. Of course, they gave the audience “Smack My Bitch Up” after this, knowing full well that everyone wanted to hear it. It’d be interesting to see a band flat-out not do their most famous song – and believe me, the show was good enough that nobody would have felt cheated – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t awesome to hear everyone erupt and start singing along (as much as you can do with that song). They performed “Take Me To The Hospital”, a throwback tune off the new album that hearkens heavily back to the 90s rave sound, and closed things off with “Out Of Space”, a single from their very first album, and a suitable look back to end the performance. It would have been nice to hear “Stand Up”, which is a perfect fist-in-the-air triumph of a song, but the fan service of a tune from Experience can certainly be appreciated.

The resurgence that The Prodigy have shown is impressive and welcome. Dance music has shifted away from the rocking, big beats that they defined in the 90s, moving to the likes of Justice and Girl Talk, and seeing the guys up on stage absolutely dwarfing the relative newcomers in terms of sound and energy (because the invaders must die) was just plain cool to see. Having just caught the tail end of their initial boom, it makes me feel like the music I loved back in middle- and high school is actually still relevant. It’s a great thing that The Prodigy are back, and it sounds like they don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.

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