Liam Howlett DJing @ Madonna gig
London, Brixton Academy, 28th November 2000
new with pictures from the webcast!

review by neko

So now THAT day has arrived. Liam Howlett is going to DJ at the 'Music Industry only' Madonna gig in Brixton Academy in London among live acts Richard Ashcroft (ex-The Verve) and Sharleen Spiteri from Texas.

The hype about this gig has been so incredibly huge that some tickets auctioned on QXL were sold for over £1000 each.

Most tickets went to the Music Industry, some were given away in competitions. I have tried everything, phoned in Radio 1 a hundred times, completed online Madonna questionnaires, but I just had no luck this time.

So here's my story about what all happened before the gig around Brixton Academy, how I finally got a ticket and of course a report about what then happened inside Brixton Academy!

It's 4.30pm on Tuesday 28th November and I arrive in Brixton already. I got exactly £70 with me, decided not to spend more on a ticket than £60 under any circumstances. By going there so early I think my chances of getting in are bigger.

I get to Brixton Academy and there is barriers and security guards all over the place. There is absolutely NO WAY to even get near Brixton Academy without having a pass. Already many people are waiting behind the barriers from where you can see the front entrance with the red carpet. There's of course already ticket touts around: 'any spare tickets? buy or sell!'. I ask how much they want to sell one ticket for, the answer is '£800'. Right, it's gonna be the backdoor then.

I walk to the back of Brixton Academy, and soon my very naive vision of sneaking into the backdoor falls apart too. Back here seems to be the VIP entrance, which means even more security and police men, barriers and even dogs. Paparazzis and Madonnafans are standing behind the barriers, inspecting every arriving car, in the hope that it would be Madonna.

I see James Lavelle and DJ Shadow leaving the building (of course no one of the paparazzis recognises them or gives a shit). Is it only me, or does James Lavelle turn up EVERYWHERE Liam is DJing?

The first really notable event though is this girl who has to deliver a huge cake in a box to Brixton Academy. Right in front of everyone she falls down to the floor and right with her face directly into her cake. I feel sorry but can't resist laughing (cause that kind of stuff usually happens to me).

I decide to wander to the front again and stand around a bit with the Madonna fans. Some woman is going around asking questions for some magazine. 'So how long have you been a Madonna fan then?', she asks me. 'Errm, I'm not really a Madonna fan... sorry'.

Also I come across a rather funny trio consisting of an Ali G. Double, a Madonna Double and a Guy Ritchie double. They did a really good job and get quite a few confused looks from people who think in the first second that they actually are the originals!

I might as well be sad and join the hysterical fans at the backdoor again. Everyone is obviously waiting for Madonna. I'm just curious what's happening.

It's 5pm and a car arrives and drives about 30 metres away from the barriers. You can see a blonde haired woman leaving the car and entering the stage door. We see her for like 2 seconds but everyone is sure it was Madonna! Damn, now all the Paparezzis are pissed off. They all were so hoping for THAT exclusive Madonna picture, and now it just didn't happen. So all the paparazzis and Madonna fans are depressed and leave.

I know there is no point to go and look for tickets now, as they are still sold for £800, so I might as well stay back here a bit, and after all the Madonna fanatics have left there's only about 10 of us left. Loads of 'important looking' or 'trying to look important' people arrive, Goldie is walking around, but no sign of Liam yet.

I realize that it's gonna be quite hopeless to get in and I am starting to develop a little bit of anger about the whole situation. This event just so represents the whole arrogance of the Music Industry and celebrities. Seeing all those snobby Music Industry people walking in is like getting the message that as an ordinary fan you just aren't worth it and should stay away, while only the 'really important' people will be let in (obviously forgetting about who is actually paying their wages).

It's 7pm now, the doors are open now for ticket holders. I wish I had done some research about what time Liam's DJ set is on, but I have no clue. He might be on already!

I talk to some French people that are standing around me, they ask if I'm here to see Madonna.
I answer: 'no, I basically just want to see Liam Howlett'
'Liam Gallagher?'
'No, Liam of The Prodigy'
'Someone of The Prodigy is here?'
'Yes, Liam'
'oh, he is into motorbikes, isn't he?'
'No, that's Keith'
Thankfully this conversation gets interrupted by some hysterical screaming of some people who recognize a famous football player (don't ask me who it was) arriving. The screaming gets worse with members of Boyzone arriving. It's really getting comical now. Some guy from BBC with a TV camera is standing next to me, trying to film anyone somehow remotely famous.

It's getting a bit boring now and I'm starting to educate those French people around me about who is who in The Prodigy. Quite funny.

Another car arrives. This one is packed with people. Someone screams: 'a big breakfast presenter!', someone else screams: 'an All Saints'. I have no clue who all those people are, but for sure is, there's Liam Howlett in this car too!
'Oh, that's Liam Howlett now', I continue educating the French people next to me.
'Really? That is him?'
They don't believe me, no one has recognized Liam at all, although he's one of the support acts! As soon as I have said this, the BBC man next to me starts filming that car which has stopped now. 7.40pm Liam and his 'team' enter Brixton Academy.

I've seen enough backdoor action now, time to give it another try to hunt a ticket. Just before 8pm now, the price for one has gone 'down' to £600 now. I'm pissed off and just about to leave and go home to watch the webcast. If they don't want any ordinary fans in there, then why bother? The Prodigy fan inside me wins, and I stay.

8.15pm, ticket prices have sensationally gone down to £250. That's almost a bargain now. Not cheap enough for me yet though. I talk to this Madonna fanatic girl and we walk around the Academy again and talk to a tout who says he has another ticket. The girl says she would give him her mobile and £40 for it and he seems to find this ok. She is very excited about it and makes a such a stupid thing, she gives him the money and the mobile and he says he 'will be back with the ticket'. And of course he runs away with the money and the mobile before I even realize what is going on! Never to be seen again. Stupid!

8.45pm now, I'm going to the front again, and now I am just trying to talk into those touts. They still want £200-£250 per ticket. I'm just about to go home when this guy arrives. He has some tickets for sale and is willing to part with them for £100 per ticket. I can convince him that no one will pay him that much and he sensationally agrees to sell me one for £50. Now THAT is a bargain.

At 9pm I am finally in the possession of a ticket!

I'm aware of the fact that Liam is probably DJing already and I don't want to miss any more and rush to the door and finally get in! Inside in the bar area it's completely overcrowded, I push my way through to the standing area. Indeed, Liam is on stage behind the turntables, once more wearing that white skull shirt. I push a bit further to the front and 10 seconds after I enter the room Liam's set seems to be finished! Noooooooo!

Richard Ashcroft comes on and I do hope that Liam will come on after his set again. I am completely excited now that I am finally in there, and when you are excited you usually feel like jumping around and that. What could be worse in such a situation than a Richard Ashcroft gig! 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' and 'The drugs don't work' almost send me asleep now. After about 20 minutes he suddenly introduces James Lavelle and DJ Shadow (as duo also known as UNKLE) and he does a song with them! A strange combination but that makes it cool.

But finally, finally Richard Ashcroft has finished and at 9.30pm Liam comes on stage again to continue his set. wahey!

the pictures are taken from the webcast, many thanks to Anton P. for sending them in

Many Prodigy fans have been wondering if Liam will change his style of DJing just to 'please the masses' at the Madonna gig. But I can reassure you now, he didn't.

'Welcome to the Terrordome' by Public Enemy gets played, like he did at his last DJ set at Fabric in July. Definitely doesn't make the masses too happy. I can see 4 peoploe dancing at the front, but apart from that the atmosphere is rather cold. Liam continues with Westbam's 'Alarmclock', a track regularly featured at his DJ sets. He tries to interact with the audience, making gestures and that, but it only works to a certain extent.

Most people in this room are die-hard Madonna fans. They have been waiting for years to see Madonna and now she is just about to come on stage in a few minutes, so why pay attention to this DJ on the stage? I can't blame them, if Madonna would be DJing before a Prodigy gig I wouldn't pay attention to her DJing either.

'Bug Powder Dust' by Bomb The Bass comes on. A very powerful track, and of course the Prodigy fan knows it from the Dirtchamber Sessions. At the usual DJ set with at least a few dozens of Prodigy fans, there would be cheering when Liam only plays the first bit of the track. But here it just leaves people completely indifferent, it's just some background music for the conversation.

Not that I want to complain too much, I am absolutely happy that I finally got in and that I have the privilege of being one of the only Prodigy fans being able to witness this rather extraordinary DJset. What he plays and how he mixes it is great, just the atmosphere doesn't exactly fit too well. Liam isn't a 'background DJ', he tends to play too powerful tracks for that.

Like the next track, 'Watch'ya want' by the Beastie Boys, which I remember Liam once said in an interview that it was his favourite Beastie Boys track. As far as I know he has never played this at any of the previous DJ sets. It's a cool track, but, you guessed it, the Madonna fans don't really appreciate it (if any of them has noticed that the DJ has changed to a new track anyway).

the pictures are taken from the webcast, many thanks to Anton P. for sending them in

So far all tracks he played were quite 'obvious ones', nothing really unexpected. But as at all his DJ sets, Liam doesn't fail to bring in at least one that is a rather 'weird one'. I haven't got a clue what exactly it is that he plays next, but it is some strange rather 80's sounding (not sure though!) track with a female voice. Very different to the other stuff he had played.
And, look at that, the Madonna fans actually start moving! They like that sort of stuff and now some of them finally vaguely start to dance.

Liam claps his hands again and soon 'Radio Babylon' by Meat Beat Manifesto comes in. Now imagine this track comes on when Liam is DJing at Fabric. You can usually hardly hear the track anymore, so loud is the cheering when he plays a track from the Dirtchamber Sessions! But here....nothing!

A few people start to scream 'Maddy, Maddy'!

It's 10pm and Liam's rather short DJ set ends with the intro beats of Madonna's 'Music', which of course leads us now into the Madonna gig. People realize that she is just about to come on stage and now all of a sudden everyone is screaming, jumping, clapping. I have to admit, it's an amazing atmosphere. There is two stages, one on the front and one on the left side, and Madonna comes on stage now on the left side, starting the first track 'Impressive Instant'. Someone now carries her to the main stage 'through' the crowd (which is supposed to look like crowdsurfing I guess?).

Madonna's gig is excellent. For what she does, she is doing it really well. It's a pop show, all completely choreographed, with dancers and that. The whole stage is impressing, a lot of planning has been put into this show. She plays six songs, five from the new album 'Music' and one old one, 'Holiday' (special 'greetings' to the girl who spilled her Smirnoff Ice over me during that song!). Madonna proofed she is a good performer still.
But being a fan of usually rather 'raw' music and bands that do 'direct' performances (no choreography) you realize that this Pop thing Madonna presents might be nice for a few tracks, but afterwards becomes rather monotonous and empty. There is just this certain bit of energy missing that I usually like at gigs. But anyway, who would dare to criticise the Queen of Pop? Madonna's gig is already over very soon anyway, finishing with 'Music' and leaves behind a rather satisfied audience.

Now the most ungrateful job of the evening goes to Goldie. He can be 'background DJ' to the Madonna fans leaving the venue. Very nice. I stay a bit in there to check out his set, but soon there is only about 40 people left in the room and a lot of garbage. If you have ever been in Brixton Academy you know that 40 people in the main room is almost nothing! Goldie then soon packs his bags and leaves, can't blame him. As I leave I get a textmessage that only 2 minutes of Liam's set was on the webcast. Hehe, was indeed worth going myself then!

So, now that event is over and I was there, but my review is full of critical comments. Don't take this too serious. All my points are from my point of view true, but in the end I definitely had a wicked time at this gig and it was an exciting experience. And of course cool to see Liam DJing again!


check out what Prodigy fans thought about Liam DJing at this event

more infos about Liam's next DJ sets

check out the archived web cast:

check out the NME review:,1004,10122,00.html


back to Liam Howlett DJ
back home


copyright 2000 by neko, all rights reserved