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leeds, glasgow & reading

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review by neko

  Friday, 23/8/02: Leeds

It is going to be a busy weekend, Prodigy are playing in Leeds, Glasgow and Reading and we're off to all three shows. It's just about a year now since Prodigy have made their live return (after 2 years) and have come back with new material. Since then the Prodigy have played festivals and a few one-off shows all over the world and although new tracks and new fills have been added here and there, the basic structure of the setlist has mainly remained the same. The festivals this weekend will be their first ones in England for 4 years, when they played their probably most dissapointing show to date at Reading 1998. So it's gonna be like a comeback again this weekend, and I have to admit i expect them to play their 'tried and tested' set list they have kept changing over the past months and keeping the risk to a minimum for those huge and important shows.

So there we are, Friday morning, after about 4hours sleep we're off to Kings Cross to catch a train to Leeds. We get to Leeds around midday, cannot check into our hotel yet, so we leave our bags with reception and get a bus to the festival. We arrive, get out of the bus and try to find the entrance. This proves to be quite difficult and after walking around half of the festival and one hour later, we are in. Great organisation, Leeds.

Puddle of Mudd are on as we get in, we watch a bit from far and they are exactly as you'd expect them to be: boring, standing on stage, playing their predictable songs. As they're finished we decide to go towards the front. It's a big 'fight', people are pushing, crowdsurfing, its quite tough. We only want to see how far we can get, but now, it's only just 3pm, decide to stay at the front, also because my sister wants to see some of the bands that are on before Prodigy. First on are NOFX though and as usual they rule. I love their music, but also all the bullsh*t they are talking is really entertainig. I usually hate it if a band keeps talking on stage, but NOFX with their spontanous self-irony are wicked. The crowd loves them and so do the crowdsurfers, very much to my 'delight' while getting kicked about hundred times during that set. That's nothing unexpected though.

Next are Incubus. I'm so not into them. Incubus bore me to death. I'm sure they are talented musicians etc, but live they are nothing for me.

Just before Slipknot we get to the front row, a bit on the right side of the stage. Being at the front is way better than being 3rd or 4th row. Whats happening back there is starting to scare me. Sometimes 20-30 people all at once are falling down, on top of each other, then all trying to get up again. The security dont do (and probably can't do) anything. This is how people died at Roskilde. I've been to quite a lot of really big festivals and stuff like this usually doesn't bother me so much, but Leeds definitely has a few severe security issues there.

Anyway, on with the show, Slipknot are on. I used to quite like them as a live act, 2-3 years ago, they always had a certain energy and their show gave me an adrenaline kick like usually only Prodigy do. Not anymore, Slipknot are just a bunch of boring old men with masks jumping around now, all energy they ever had has gone.

We stay at the front, next on are Offspring. I've seen them before at festivals and there it is no surprise they still sound the same, look the same, like old men trying to be punks. Or 'pönks', as we call those. "Leeds, you are the best audience we've had for a long time!" they say. yeh right! About hundred kicks in my head later Offspring are finished and the stage is being set up for The Prodigy now, woohooo! Everything hurts, it's quite crazy at the front here, many people are pushing, kicking etc. But now its payoff time, Prodigy will come on stage soon.

As they build up the stage we notice the all new stage. A backdrop with a massive gun, Liam's keyboards surrounded by lights, a small dragon on the right side of the stage and the word 'HOT' written in light bulbs at the left side of the stage. There is a great anticipation among the audience, not just for Prodigy to make their return to England, but also for Guns n' Roses who are going to follow afterwards. Some guys near me are starting to 'sing' the chorus of Baby's got a temper and a lot of people are shouting 'Prodigy' and 'Keith'.

At about 9pm finally the lights go off and the band start the show. Under applause and cheers Liam, Keith, Maxim and drummer Kieron enter the stage. And, I can't believe my ears, start with an all-new intro. No more army march, which i liked a lot, but the new intro is wicked too. While the army march was an almost quiet start into the show, this new intro is starting the show full-on! And soon I also realize why it does sound familiar, you can all head over to the official Prodigy site (www.theprodigy.com), go to the 'personal' section, then click on one of the links to get to the subsection that's designed like a map where you can zoom in the pictures. That's the loop from the same track as the new intro. It features lyrics by Maxim, going like: "and bring you back to school, to show you how to ..."

But not only The Prodigy's stage is all new, also their stage clothes. Liam and Maxim all in black, while Keith is wearing pink and black, with the edges of his top glowing in the dark.

As the intro finishes, guitarist Jim Davies joins the band on stage and another new track is started. Or at least that's what I think it is at first, until I realize a few seconds later that the track in question is indeed a completely new version of Nuclear. It sounds harder but at the same time more electronic and less obvious like a Sex Pistols reference. As I hear it the first time here I don't really like the changes that have been made to this track, as I've gotten very used to the old version. Regarding that this is a new track, it gets a very warm welcome from the audience. Everyone, including myself is buzzing. Even more so when they start the next track Breathe. I must admit at this point my first thought is 'oh no, have they dropped Their Law?'. Breathe is as usual an audience pleaser. We get pretty crushed at the front now and Maxim of course shouts the expected "Leeds! It's been a fucking long time!".

Goblin is next and from what i remember features new lyrics, no more 'apocalypse now'. The downtempo fill as usual makes the audience go more quiet. The oppposite happeens with the next track, Smack my Bitch Up. Keith does his usual thing, running down, stirring up the audience. The stage is so far away from the audience, so a bit of audience contact really can't hurt. That's the thing with the festivals, you get this cool festival vibe, get to see a lot of different bands, but for seeing your own favorite band an intimate smaller venue is still the best place.

Trigger is on next, and this song has stayed pretty much the same. Audience reaction is getting a bit lamer now, you can already tell now that there are a lot of people waiting for Guns n' Roses! As this finished we can hear the main sample from Out of Space played. Way too short. Is Liam just teasing us with playing 10 seconds of Out of Space? Or is it a nod to the long-time fans? With the words 'fuck it all' by Maxim they lead into Their Law. Phewww. As this is still my favorite Prodigy song, well, I think it is great.

Big surprise next. A guy with a saxophone walks on stage and they start, quite unexpected, a cover of Madness' Nightboat to Cairo. The beginning of the track sounds pretty similar as the original, but I love hearing a track like this with the 'Prodigy treatment'. It's of course a call back to Liam's roots as a ska fand and fits well into the middle of the gig as it is quite different to the rest of it all.

Keith sounds good on the vocals as they are quite his style. There's an instrumental middle part in the Prodigy version of the song which sounds wicked, I guess that part could even be worked into an own Prodigy song. All in all it's a cool cover to do live, but wouldn't fit on the album I guess.

So are they playing a cover version to 'cover up their lack of own new material' as some people are suggesting? I dont think so. There are actually 3 new tracks and 2 new fills in this set and for a large part of the festival audience this is the first time they hear these. More unknown material would have been a too great risk in front of a festival crowd, but will hopefully be revealed once the band play some more of their own gigs. Festival audiences want to hear songs they are familiar with, they want to hear the 'hits'. I actually spoke to some people who believed that the band have played too much new material!

Next is Poison, once more Keith is using the time to run down to the audience. Him and Maxim seem to be in great shape tonight delivering a wicked performance. Then the Prodigy's latest single Baby's got a Temper, which actually gets a great reception from the audience. the beginning of it has been changed a little with new breakbeats leading into the songs, making the beginnning more interesting.

From then on audience reaction is going a bit downhill. Mindfields comes on and Maxim delivers a great performance but a large part of the audience seem to be somewhere else with their thoughts already, in particular the Guns n' Roses show that's going to be following. Prodigy are leaving and return 2 seconds later again to play their encore songs Firestarter and Fuel my Fire, both of which get a great reception, but there's a certain anticipation for Guns n'Roses that can be felt already and kinda ruins the atmosphere through this Prodigy gig.

At 10pm Prodigy leave the stage and its being prepared for Guns n' Roses. Of course I am staying at the front row to watch them.

I can understand anyone looking forward to GNR, I used to be a massive fan of this band, back 10-13 years ago and saw them live twice back then. I know that at the moment suddenly everyone and their mother is a GNR fan, but it's really been one of the most important bands of my life.

Everyone knows the story, Axl has fired all other 'original' members apart from keyboarder Dizzy Reed and instead formed a new band which he is now touring with under the name Guns n' Roses. Not exactly the real deal unfortunately, especially as I was a great fan of original members Slash, Duff and Izzy. They've now had a few tours announced over the past 2 years, but most gigs were cancelled again. Even greater now the anticipation as at 11pm, one hour late, Guns n' Roses are still not on stage.

Shortly after 11pm they finally appear, with opening track Welcome to the Jungle. Wow, this feels really good to see this band again, although it is mainly just 'Axl and friends'. They continue the set with well-known tracks like It's so easy, Mr Brownstone, Out ta get me, Rocket Queen, My Michelle, Sweet Child o'Mine and Nighttrain from their 1987 album Appetite for Destruction. Only few tracks from the Use Your Illusion albums are played, Live and Let Die, You could be Mine, the cover of Knocking on Heavens Door and of course November Rain with Axl on his piano. There are only two new tracks at this gig, one of them a really nice, mellow track called Madagascar, the other one, The Blues, pretty much not even worth mentioning. Apart from those two, all material is from 91 or older!

So are they worth it all? I was never an Axl fan, but he definitely rules at this gig. he displays a genuine, and you can really tell that it's genuine, surprise about so many people being here and holds quite a moving speech about this all. He still has the audience under control, runs around as he used to and his voice sounds good (very unlike at the VMA's which you have probably all seen now). The band, well, that's the dissapointing part of it. Guns n 'Roses used to have 2 guitarists and a bass player, now they have 3 (!) guitarists and a bass player. They still play exactly the same songs but even leave out some of the more complex parts that Slash used to master. And that guy, Buckethead (with the KFC bucket on his head), he might be a very talented experimantal guitarist, but as a performer he doesn't fit into Guns n' Roses at all. His 'robotic' moves might be cool for a minute or two, but as a performer with a band like Guns n' Roses you need a guitarist that looks as if he really is performing, moving around on the stage, as Slash did.

But anyway, the atmosphere in the audience is amazing and I have a really great time. Seeing Guns n' Roses and Prodigy on the same evening, what more could you possibly want? But trying to think about it all a bit rationally now you still realize this comeback is all about nostalgia. Many people like me loved this band 12 years ago, now seeing them again is more about doing it for the sake of the good old times. Their old songs still sound great, and a part of me doesnt even want to hear any new material by them. But the other part of me realizes that making a comeback with a band that only includes one original member and is based on material all older than 10 years cannot last very long. There are really not many people apart from Axl that I can think of that would get away with this!

Guns n' Roses finish at 1am, exactly 2 hours late, with Paradise City. As I'm leaving the front I realize I have just spent 10hours non-stop there being pushed and kicked. Everything hurts! We try to get back to the shuttlebuses to Leeds now. Not easy! No signs anywhere whatsoever. By the time we finally find the buses there is a huge queue and only one bus at the time boarding people. Great organisation again, Leeds. So by 3am (!) we finally get a bus going back to Leeds to our hotel. Considering the fact that we have to get up at 7am this is a pretty expensive 3 hours sleep.

  Saturday, 24/8/02: Glasgow

We continue having great luck. The hotel have lost my sisters bag and can't find it anymore, so we have to run around all morning, go to police etc. It's a mess. Still without bag we finally make it to the train station. The train company operating direct trains from Leeds to Glasgow for £20 is on a strike today, yay. So we have to change twice and pay 3 times as much, wahey.

Anyway, somehow we finally actually get to Glasgow, get to our hotel here, get our room and are on our way to the Glasgow Gig on the Green festival! I am particularly looking forward to seeing the Prodigy at this one as it is way smaller than Reading and Leeds.

NOFX are on when we get there, they're again wicked, making fun of themselves and in particular also the French. No Incubus today, so we're going straight to Slipknot. Again their performance is rather boring, at least tonight they play their somewhat more catchy tunes Wait and Bleed and Spit it Out.

We sneak to the front row now, which isn't particularly difficult with all the 13 year olds surrounding us waiting for Offspring. Offspring are not much different from last night, apart from tonight 'Glasgow, you're the best audience we've had for a long time'. a -ha! After they finish you can see the audience changing. The 13 year olds are leaving and everyone around us looks a bit more like my age now.

Prodigy again start the show with the new intro, followed by the new Nuclear. The latter now sounds much better already and I can see this new version working, especially if that would be released as a single. Also you can tell the audience is just way more into it tonight. While last night a great part were probably just there waiting for GNR, tonight EVERYONE is here to see The Prodigy and you can really feel the difference.

After Breathe then another great surprise, instead of Goblin they play an all new fill! I only heard it once until now so I can hardly remember, but its also downtempo with a cool piano line. Now Smack My Bitch up comes up and as always gets a great crowd response, Keith's running down to the front again.

Next is Trigger, then again that Out of Space fill followed by Their Law. The cover of Nightboat to Cairo sounds good again, to a great part also because of the quality of the original track. The main part of the track isn't even changed much in the Prodigy cover, but the instrumental bit in the middle needs definitely to be noticed. Poison follows, but the next great surprise is Baby's got a Temper which actually gets a really great audience response tonight. Liam then throws in a fill from Climbatize before they start Mindfields and dissapear. As yesterday they come back for their encore with Firestarter and Fuel my Fire.

Now that gig really leaves me behind wanting more and kinda feels better than Leeds yesterday. 5 hours at the front today, and still everything hurts. We're going back to the hotel and decide to go for a drink, but we're so tired that we almost fall asleep while doing so.

  Sunday, 25 /8/02: Reading

As we have to get up at 7am again after another 4 hours sleep I almost start to feel sorry for ourselves. Everything hurts, but we have to get to Prestwick airport to catch our £4.50 flight with Ryanair to Stansted. Get the train to London Liverpool street station, quickly drop off our bags at home, take the tube to Paddington and then a train to Reading. Wahey, a bit before 4pm we actually already get there while again Puddle of Mudd are on. Wont bother getting to the front at this one, will act like an adult for once, breaking my rib at Reading 98 was enough for me.

But we watch NOFX now, they're just the coolest. Incubus I ignore and spend the time meeting up with all sorts of people, Slipknot we watch from far away again, nothing special again. And Offspring? yeh, you guessed it 'Reading, you're the best audience we've had for a long time' ...

Prodigy are the closing act of the 3 day festival and deliver a similar gig to the last two nights. I know there have been some negative reactions afterwards, from a few fans and in NME particularly. As I am right thre at the gig though it feels literally as if there's 50'000 people jumping at the same time. Again of course the new intro and the new Nuclear, which I actually really start to like now. Breathe and then Goblin which is kept very short tonight. the new fill from Glasgow isn't played anymore. Smack my Bitch Up, Trigger and the Out of Space fill, followed by Their Law. The cover of Nightboat to Cairo gets a particularly good reaction tonight. Poison, then Baby's got a Temper and Mindfields, followed by the encore Firestarter and Fuel my Fire.

Good ending to a great weekend and thanks to the always impressing Bristish train system we get back to London finally at 4am Monday morning. It was a busy weekend indeed.

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