When I told a friend I was going to see the Prodigy at The Marquee, I admitted that I wasn’t quite sure if I had seen them before or not. “You haven’t seen them so,” he replied. “You’d remember.”
I admit I avoided seeing the rave veterans the last time they came to Cork, five years ago, thinking I might feel a bit uncomfortable with all those young folk there.
This year, at the
ripe old age of 38, I thought to myself: “Hey, maybe things have come full circle. Perhaps the youth of today have barely heard of The Prodigy and there’ll be mostly a familiar nostalgia crowd like me along this time”.
I thought the crowd would be loosely composed of people of a certain age, like me, who still felt they could rock out when the occasion demanded, along with those who would recoil in embarrassment around anyone using a phrase as lame as “rock out”.
A little naïve perhaps, but it got me to the gig this time.
Yes, of course the yoof were certainly in the majority. Look, Cork isn’t exactly brimming with massive dance music events, so of course they grab any opportunity that comes along. Heck, I’d be exactly the same all those years ago.
Having said that, it wasn’t exclusively a young crowd. If it was a bit of a Leaving Cert party, it was a bloody well-supervised one. I went in, grabbed a pint and took an appropriate vantage point on the terrace seating, nearish to the stage – a perfect spot to dance in peace and watch the action unfold.
Anticipation grew as the 10-minute warning of the bands arrival stretched to easily 20 minutes and beyond. The crowd kept their end of the bargain - giving it socks to DJ Arveene - but after a while the tension was palpable.
When they finally arrived, the roar duly went up, along with what seemed like dozens of video-recording phones (and a couple of tablets – why??) along the sides. Not so the traditional fan HQ of front-centre, where it was hands were far too occupied stretching skywards.
Within the first minute, lead rapper Maxim began greeting the adoring masses with “All the people in Cork!”, already surpassing the audience interaction offered by Black Francis at the (excellent) Pixies gig two nights previously. Of course, this gig was always going to be a very different animal, both on stage and off, you’d really have to go to both to fully appreciate just how much.
The rave veterans rewarded the welcome by kicking off with a biggie, ‘Breathe’. 1994 hit ‘Voodoo People’ followed soon after, producing the biggest “hands-in-the-air” moment of the night.
Things went a little off-track for a while soon after though, owed largely to what had denigrated into an annoyingly muffled overall sound from the stage.
Gone was raucous enthusiasm that greeted their early tracks. A stomper like ‘Poison’ entertained, sure, but just didn’t get the reaction you’d expect.
They soon changed it up though. Maxim dramatically exited the stage, microphone in hand, running along the side of the arena. As his voice continued to blast from the stage speakers, amusingly few closeby punters noticed his sudden presence, and he was even chased by a security guard. My companion and I pondered the hilarious consequences of a stubborn security man frog-marching the protesting frontman out of the entire venue for the night.
His absence for a few songs (maybe he did get thrown out!) allowed punking instigator Keith Flint to take centre stage, and things began to look up.
Of course, ‘Firestarter’ kicked things off, and although the sound problems were still evident, the breakdown had the desired effect. From then, the sound finally began to improve and we began to hear the guitar and vocals in all their glory once more. The crowd responded in kind. Hands were clapped, noise was made.
By now Maxim was back to join the party and a spirited take on ‘Spitfire’ in particular proved a big hit.
Perhaps owing to the predominantly young profile of the audience, the more recent tracks in general certainly got a lot of traction (yet another noticeable contrast to the Pixies gig).
Energy levels peaked as the night reached its high point in the form of the gloriously unapologetic ‘Smack My Bitch Up’. No furrowed brows or disapproving glances here, just pure delight on every face.
A little naughty language near the start of this one…
The strategy of getting the crowd to hunch down and then all jump up at once, that seemed to work pretty well at other gigs, didn’t quite come off - but there was better to follow…
The lads left the stage, but few bought it – perhaps explaining the lack of any unified call for an encore - and upon their return, they were greeted with well-deserved screams.
Tonite we played in Cork .. Respect to the irish massive who came to see us , great to be back http://t.co/hal8uLJSom— The Prodigy (@the_prodigy) July 2, 2014
They hadn’t played the perfect gig by any means. Tunes like ‘Out Of Space’ and my personal favourite ‘Charlie’ would have sent the crowd into raptures, but were conspicuously absent all night.
Prodigy didnt play Out Of Space, pretty sure this constitutes a war crime— Gav (@miracleofsound) July 2, 2014
But when Maxim shouted: “You want more? Are you sure?” the audience reaction left no room for doubt.
With that, my companion and I decided to escape the relative seclusion of the seating area and venture into the sweaty crowd.
Now, say what you will about crowds at dance music events, but they are by far the easiest to move through, opposed to the kind of icy stares and immoveable elbows you encounter at a, say, Radiohead gig. In less than a minute we were in the thick of it.
Then, in an ingenious turn in crowd manipulation, Maxim ordered that dedicated front-middle crowd to “make a circle” - essentially to clear a big space in prime dancefloor real estate. After some initial confusion, the masses dutifully obliged.
Now, any physicist will tell you: Nature abhors a vacuum. Well, it turns out that Prodigy fans aren't too fond of them either, because as soon as the provocative beats of ‘Their Law’ kicked back in – voilà! Instant mosh pit!
There we found ourselves, by accident really, at the edge of said mosh pit. It would have been impolite not to join in, right?
So we thought “why not?” and topped off the night moshing with da kids (well, over-18 ones anyway).
Oh, it wasn’t as rough or intense as when we threw ourselves around in dingy clubs to the likes of Therapy and Ash in the 90s, but the young 'uns did their best, bless ’em.
And so for a few glorious minutes, we didn’t feel quite so old anymore. We could still rock out.
Live at the Marquee continues at Cork Docklands until July 15. Tickets for many of the events can still be purchased from Ticketmaster and usual outlets.