The Prodigy World’s on Fire Review

Live. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

The group’s first official live album sees nostalgia butt against fearsome acerbity.

Mike Diver 2011

It must be galling for rising dance stars to see 40-somethings bounce around a stage like men half their age, owning festival-sized audiences in a way they, in all likelihood, never will. But then again, The Prodigy outgrew genre niches long ago, imprinting themselves on the national consciousness in the mid-90s with a run of unforgettable singles. Hearing the biggest of them, Firestarter, on the group’s first official live album takes one right back to the summer of Shearer and Sheringham. It’s a soundtrack to another age, its makers somehow ageless; and World’s on Fire is proof that it’s not just the kids, but all generations, standing united before this music.

This package features tracks recorded at the band’s Warriors Dance Festival of 2010. Some 65,000 fans crammed into The National Bowl at Milton Keynes – and footage suggests that every one of them went home with sore feet, ears ringing and a goofy grin. It was a massive statement: The Prodigy’s biggest show to date, over 20 years since their formation in Braintree, it was evidence that their appeal hadn’t dissipated in the slightest. Sure, vocalists Maxim and Keith Flint might not last the distance without a little breather – note the timing of instrumental number Weather Experience in the running order – but they work the stage better than a thousand would-be peers. They excite the crowd, consistently asking if the throng is ready for what’s to follow; and those in attendance respond positively, willing to take whatever is thrown at them.

Which breaks down as follows: seven songs from 2009’s twice-platinum album Invaders Must Die, three from 1997’s Mercury Prize-nominated Fat of the Land, two from 1994’s Music for the Jilted Generation and the rest from 1992’s debut, Experience. That sort of setlist – or at least the version presented here – paints a damning picture of 2004’s Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. It would seem that the Liam Howlett’s sole studio blip has been sent to the scrapheap; arguably, it belonged there long before the core trio reformed into the force they’ve been since the revitalising Invaders Must Die.

The recording is crisp and punchy: when Maxim asks the soundman to up the bass prior to Smack My B**** Up, the home listener may wish to do likewise (warning: not if you’ve any valuables adorning the walls). A few inspirational instructions ring hollow – telling the crowd that they have the right to party all night is fine, but security probably didn’t welcome the sentiment when it came to kick-out time. Flint is a little limp through Firestarter on CD – but watching on DVD, it becomes apparent why he’s out of breath: the man doesn’t relent at all, putting in a physically demanding performance that would leave most 41-year-olds on the deck. When the lights finally come up, the listener/viewer will feel exhausted and, just maybe, a bit emotional as nostalgia butts against fearsome acerbity in truly scintillating style.

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