In an era when memories can be monetised, most bands – active or otherwise – might hungrily eye the 20th anniversary of their most successful album as an opportunity to mount a special tour to shore up their legacy and top up their bank balances. Not so the Prodigy, Liam Howlett’s tetchy but tireless road warriors whose The Fat of the Land came out in 1997. After yet another year of festival dates across Europe and beyond came a short UK sprint, including this show at Glasgow Academy.
A scrawled backdrop of urban blight and barbed wire is illuminated by spinning red police beacons and gigantic roaming searchlights; the default volume level is air-raid siren. The band kick off with the angular arcade-game squeals and clattering drums of Omen and neither the racket nor energy levels let up for almost two hours of tooth-rattling pandemonium.
The core trio of Howlett, rapper Maxim and aggro-jester Keith Flint are now men aged from 46 to 50, yet they still look as if they could walk straight into a cyberpunk movie. Flint and Maxim – pictured above – prowl the stage with practised caged-panther menace. On the queasy funhouse blast of Nasty they energetically trade lines and goad each other with grins.
While Prodigy records deliver reliably impressive frontloaded sales – if you include a 2005 greatest hits, they have notched up six UK No 1 albums in a row – they have always been live specialists. Older hits are tossed into the setlist like grenades. The toytown techno of Everybody in the Place ignites a rabid wave of raving; a relatively early outing for Firestarter shakes the Academy’s balcony. Newer songs are battered and bolted into more angular shapes to better fit the whole. On record, the title track from their 2015 album The Day Is My Enemy is a domino line of tribal drums with a keening Martina Topley-Bird vocal soaring on top. Live, it is now armour-plated with heavy rock riffs.
Is there any political message within the delirium? The Prodigy’s story will always be associated with the rave-inhibiting Criminal Justice Act and the aggression baked into their music has often felt like protest: hedonistic with a hint of malevolence.
Before a thrilling final salvo, there is an effort to squeeze in material from their seventh album, due to be released later this year. But perhaps the best way to sample it will be once the highlights have been fully grafted into their live repertoire. That is the fate of a road band, but it it’s s remarkable that the Prodigy can still generate and expertly channel this much energy. y. Touring Russia and nd Europe from March