There aren't many acts that can fill the 12,500-capacity Wembley Arena, especially for two nights in a row, and until recently you wouldn't have thought the Prodigy would have been one of them. It wasn't long ago that 2004's disappointing Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (the long awaited follow-up to The Fat of the Land, the record that catapulted them into mainstream success) made it seem as if the Prodigy were nearing the end of their journey.
Yet this year's Invaders Must Die, which sees Maxim Reality and Keith Flint returning to vocal duties, has signalled something of a renaissance, and as a result they once again sound like a group enjoying their music. This, coupled with their raucous live reputation, means Liam Howlett's band is in ruder health than they have been for quite a while.
Among the many musical tribes that the Prodigy attracts their fans from, the hip-hop crowd is probably one of the least represented, which makes the choice of Dizzee Rascal as support a slightly strange one. Yet, this is forgetting that Dylan Mills – who has clearly been at his fair share of raves – has now become a very polished live performer, especially in front of big crowds.
Taking full advantage of the bass-heavy sound system, the big hits such as "Fix Up, Look Sharp" and "Dance Wiv Me" are well-known enough to get the crowd warmed up, while the new songs he plays tonight are also promising, especially his new single, "Bonkers", and a song based around The Adventures of Stevie V's rave classic, "Dirty Cash". On this form, Dizzee Rascal's next move should be eagerly anticipated.
However much energy the East London rapper expands, in his quest to win over a crowd restless for the main act, it pales into insignificance when compared with Keith Flint. He's not as terrifyingly strange as he once appeared, but by the Prodigy's opener, "World's On Fire", he is already running up and down the stage with relentless zest.
Maxim provides the perfect foil to Flint's unleashed energy, and together the two lead the full-frontal assault. Howlett, who as always takes a back seat stationed behind his stack of equipment, may be the brains behind the group, but Flint and Maxim are the secret to the Prodigy's success live. Constantly goading and challenging the crowd, they are the ingredients that turn them from a dance group into a band capable of filling arenas such as this.
The band's greatest hits take up a large proportion of the night, but that's only because they have so many, and every one of their albums (except, predictably, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned) is well represented. What is most surprising, however, is that the new songs do not come across as just set fillers – or are treated as such by the crowd. "Omen" already appears to have become a Prodigy classic, and "Run with the Wolves" is similarly relentless, with both greeted as enthusiastically as "Jericho" and "Their Law". Their music hasn't really aged, perhaps both "Firestarter" and "Breathe" have lost some of their shock value, but "Voodoo People" and "No Good" remain anthemic highs.
It is both exhausting and exhilarating, yet there is no let-up in energy from either the band or the crowd. In recognition of this, after a thunderous "Invaders Must Die", Maxim orders the soundman to crank up the volume even higher for "Diesel Power", which becomes a truly earth-shattering barrage of noise.
They finish with "Out of Space" and leave the stage victorious. The Prodigy may not deviate from their techno-punk template or offer much in the way in the way of innovation, but they still have the ability to turn a potentially soul-destroying venue into a rave, and that is why so many love them.
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