I WAS THERE: The Prodigy Make All Of Our Regressive Raver Dreams Come True, Including That One Involving “Out of Space”

Keith Flint of THE PRODIGY breathes the pressure.
Keith Flint of THE PRODIGY breathes the pressure.

Photos/Text by Andrew Parks [slideshow here]

“I’ll give you $40 to stand where you’re standing.”

“I can’t do that man. I wish I could, but you’d just get kicked out.”

“How about $80 then?”

And so went an exchange between self-titled–stationed in Roseland Ballroom’s photo pit area–and one of the more insane Prodigy fans we met on Thursday night. (One of the few heated males who wasn’t beating his chest like a feral ape.) This particular madman came all the way up from Florida to see the twisted techno legends in a rare New York appearance, and he’s heading back home to see them at the Ultra Music Festival this Saturday night. That’s what we call devotion.

And who can blame him? By the time the trio (producer/synth-slinger Liam Howlett and vocalists Maxim Reality and Keith Flint, as backed by a superfluous guitarist and drummer) closed with one of our favorite Prodigy cuts, “Out of Space,” self-titled felt more spent than the last time we tried to take up running … and quit after, oh, 10 minutes. No doubt about it: despite the fact that Flint turns 40 this year (Reality hit that mark in 2007, and Howlett’s got a couple more years before he’s officially old and gray), the spiky-haired one sprinted across the stage like an 18-year-old who just got snatched by England’s national soccer team. As for Reality, he barely stopped to breathe, either, to the point where he playfully pushed Flint during “Breathe,” as if to say, “Come on motherfucker! I’m more a man than you’ll ever be.”

While all this testosterone talk may make you think that we witnessed something akin to a rap-metal revue–only with drum machines and sample pads in place of turntables and down-tuned guitars–the Prodigy’s 90-minute set was more like a complete realization of what “electronica” was supposed to stand for back when The Fat of the Land topped the Billboard charts and went platinum. And by that, we mean more than just ‘dance music for dudes.’ What the Prodigy’s wonderful at–nearly two decades into their career no less–is making beats and loops come alive better than any rock show ever could. Standing up front as the trio sparked a classic single like “Their Law,” we were blown away by the chest-caving force of Howlett’s basslines and breaks, by the simple but strikingly effective MC skills of Maxim & Keith.

Simply put: this was one of the most visceral sets we’ve seen in years, as if the Prodigy were determined to turn Roseland Ballroom into the main stage of England’s sprawling Reading Festival. Now if only they could make another album like Experience, or at the very least, everything before Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. (That said, many new songs, such as “Take Me to the Hospital” and “Omen,” were absolute corkers live.)

The Prodigy, Roseland Ballroom, 3.26.09:
Worlds On Fire
Their Law
Warrior’s Dance
Run With The Wolves
Voodoo People

Invaders Must Die
Diesel Power
Smack My Bitch Up
Take Me To The Hospital
Your Love/Out Of Space