The Prodigy Lights Up Helsinki Ice Hall
There is something endearing about seeing two manic characters on stage of Helsinki Ice Hall on Tuesday evening so readily associated with the power of ‘big beat electronica’, and their image remaining entirely the same as their envelope-pushing videos in the late 90s.
You can’t argue with the legacy of The Prodigy – their colossal musical influence in electronica/dance genres, longevity, and huge hits that still grace modern playlists, such as ‘Breathe ‘and ‘Firestarter’. They successfully navigated a rapidly evolving electronica scene in the 90s and into the 2000s, utilising strong visuals and unique flair on stage via the commanding duo of Keith Flint & Keith Palmer, with Liam Howlett in the background as the main producer/composer of The Prodigy’s long discography.
Flint still wore his trademark dual-spiked hairstyle, and looked just as musically-possessed as he did almost twenty years ago. Similarly, Palmer (Maxim) retained his dreadlocks and face paint. A crazed fit of energy remained – lights, piercings, and a hungry audience for what The Prodigy does best: deafening sound and explosive energy.
Kicking off the night with ‘Breathe’ was a sign for the remainder of the evening, selecting one of their biggest hits to set the tone for the performance. Helsinki Ice Hall was sufficiently filled, but the venue was one of the conditions working against their set. The Prodigy suits a dark, hot, and cave-like atmosphere, and although attendance was decent, it did not provide the unable-to-move ecstasy-induced atmosphere their music demands. Their primal nature and hard hitting musical edge would perhaps have been better suited to a very packed gig at Nosturi, or a similar venue with a capacity of approximately 1000. The selection of venue brought to the fore another element that held back their performance: their increasing age as an act and a resulting wane in the relevance of their music.
It’s a hard feeling to explain – it’s not that the core has changed: similar style, mammoth sound, and a light show that would drive most people into a frenzy by itself. Yet, the music felt long in the tooth, which was arguably evoked by the venue and insufficient attendance, and partially by the song selection. The Prodigy has enough gold-standard hits to fill an entire set list, backed up by ferocious, pummelling sound and veteran stage show. Other stadium-filling tracks appeared, such as ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, ‘Voodoo People’, ‘Invaders Must Die’, and ‘Thunder’.
Yet, one of my favourite things about The Prodigy is their variance displayed over many of their albums: an ability to draw on varying tempos, musical influences, samples, as well as creating slow-building and atmospheric tracks, all with a tinge of underlying dance/electronica that provides an outlet of energy and pure inhibition. From rave/hardcore, to ambient/downtempo, and onward to breakbeat/drum’n’bass, their career has certainly touched on a variety of influences. This did become apparent in some instances, particularly when they deftly transitioned into a drawn-out intro for ‘Voodoo People’, displaying their flair, razor-sharp precision, and crowd-moving legacy. However, their lesser-known songs and the stylistic juxtaposition they provide to their hits that can bring the crowd to their knees are important to the overall package of their music. Without including enough of these tracks, which increase diversity and build their presence, it was one stadium pleaser after another. It became repetitive and served to devalue their immense diversity of talent.
Quibbles aside, one of the 90s and early 2000s biggest and most easily-recognisable acts proved they still had the gusto and focus to deliver a bone-crushing onslaught for which they are best known.