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all pictures on this site are by neko from lowlands & pukkelpop. review by neko.
The day starts rather difficult for me. It's 1am and i just get home from a party from work with free drinks. And i have had a few drinks too many. About 12 too many to be exact. I don't know how, but somehow i manage to pack my stuff for the festivals and get exactly 3hours of sleep before I then head off with backpack, tent and sleeping bag. No, not towards Holland yet, I first have to do an exam for my University, here and now in London on the day of the Prodigy gig, just to after 60 min (of 120) leave the exam room again, not without getting a few weird looks because of my lugagge, and head off across the road to Liverpool Street Station. Who cares about an exam that will go into your University Degree, when you can see The Prodigy on that evening? Always reliable the British train system brings me safely to Stansted and I indeed make it to my plane and arrive at Amsterdam Shiphol Airport just after 3.20pm where I meet AnnBritt who has arrived already from Denmark.
We of course now rush and get the next possible train to a town called Lelystad in the 'Lowlands' of Holland and when we get there at around 5pm I can't quite believe how smooth everything is going, the shuttlebuses are already there too, ready to bring us to the festival!
Last week's excitement about The Prodigy finally being 'back' is of course still here. But at the same time I kinda realize by now that the excitement about finally seeing the band live again has kinda made every sort of criticism go away, which isn't exactly a good thing. Having waited so long for them to make a comeback, you of course gotta ask yourself why there are only 2 new tracks in their set? And why are the two new tracks, although they are indeed very cool, not that much new, compared to what Liam has already written 4 years ago for The Fat of The Land?
All that goes to my head while we're arriving at the festival and face a first little problem: there seems to be no cloakrooms at all, and since we have no intentions to put up our tent on this dirty, stinking and overcrowded campsite ('luxurious campsite'...yeh right!) we are a bit in trouble at first. By the time we finally find a place to store our stuff, it is already 7pm and Tricky is on in the Alpha tent, later to be headlined by The Prodigy. Very unfortunate, the main stage is actually in a tent. This could be a good thing when it's raining, but today the sun is shining and it is pretty damn hot outside and inside the tent you almost can't stand the heat. But who cares, we gotta be in the front for The Prodigy, so there is no choice and we go and head on inside.
As Tricky's set is finished we actually mange to get to the front row, just on the right side of that gangway in the middle, a place which at first of course seems to be perfect. Right at the front in the middle for The Prodigy, yeeeh!
But first of all Muse are on now. There was a time where I simply hated this band. I had once seen them live and classified it as one of the most boring gigs I have ever seen. With a bit a more positive attitude now I try to tell myself that they are not all that bad. Lately they've really had a couple of tracks you could indeed listen to. But the gig soon proofs me what i had guessed ages ago: every single Muse song just seems to sound exactly the same. People seem to love them though, I never realized Muse were so popular on Europe mainland. At the same time we also see Damon again, who has made his way to the front at the other side of the gangway, probably a better choice than on our side where you almost can't breathe anymore already, so hard people are pushing towards the front.
Its a relief when Muse are finally finished, most of the little screaming girls are leaving, and the stage is being prepared for The Prodigy now, with the usual 'ceremony' of a curtain being put up in front of Liam's keyboards while a roadie (no not Liam himself - which would explain the curtain) is soundcheicking the keyboards. All the memories from last week's gigs come up again and of course the whole excitement is back again.
As Prodigy enter the stage punctually at 10pm, the tent is completely filled with overheated people. Apperently even outside the tent people are trying to get inside, or trying to 'watch' the gig. Same as last week, first Liam Howlett and Kieron Pepper start the new intro. The army marsh bit is said to be sounding a bit like the A-team theme. If it is from exactly there, I am not sure. Some people have discussed that they believe the sample at the end of the army marsh intro going 'you and me, forever, and ever, and ever' is from the Kinks' song 'all day and all of the night', but i believe the sample could indeed be taken from a cover version of that track.
Now the rest of the band, Maxim, Keith Flint and Alli, jump on stage and kick off Their Law. It's a very euphoric atmosphere in the tent, although you can hardly move anymore at the front. Their Law is brilliant as opening track. But just at the end of the track, suddenly the whole music stops, at first I think it's a mistake by Liam, but then realize there must be some failure. The whole band now leaves the stage and everything goes quiet and quite dark. First people keep on cheering for more, but then obviously the audience has no idea what is happening and start to become impatient. After a couple of minutes finally some guy comes on stage and talks to the audience in Dutch. My neighbour explains me that he is talking about a power failure, but that they are 'working on it'. Those things happen, kinda ruin the gig but nothing you can do about it as a band. It reminds me a bit of when I saw The Prodigy a few years ago at a festival in France where they performed on the second stage, also a tent, and had to interrupt the show due to a power failure and thunder storms for over 40 minutes!
After about 20 minute the band come back and continue the set with Trigger. The 'one, one, one' sample gets forgotten completely and there is no live guitar anymore for this track. The performance now seems a bit rushed to me, and at this point no one is too much into it anymore, during the whole Trigger song you can feel that most of the audience are still confused about the break and dont pay too much attention to the fact that new Prodigy material is being performed on stage!
Next on is Breathe, and for that track the band is joined again by Alli on live guitars. This is followed by the new link, a very downtemp fill with dark beats. At this gig completely instrumental, just with Maxim and Keith making weird moves on stage. Sounds almost a bit like the evil brother of Molotov Bitch. Familiar beats start, and its of course Smack my Bitch Up. Just as with Breathe, this is one of the commonly recognized tracks and the audience is going crazy.
Climbatize link is next, followed by Mindfields. Again this is Maxim's solo performance while Keith uses the time to spit some water into the audience.
Ten thousands of people are pushing towards the front now, and in that 'corner' we are, you sometimes almost can't breathe anymore. My friend AnnBritt is so crushed now, she has to be pulled out from the audience just during the starting sounds of Nuclear. I stay at the front and am a bit confused now that Nuclear still sounds exactly the same as last week, although there is no live guitar at all anymore.
Unlike at the other gig, this track is followed by Firestarter. Of course widely recognized by all the people and getting far more reaction from the audience than the two new tracks together. Poison follows afterwards, and, without leaving the stage for an encore, the band end the gig with Fuel my Fire. Does seem as if they had to rush it a bit now because of the power failure before.
The gig is finished, and although i am not dissapointed with it, i am not really all that excited about it either. Heat, rush, power failure have managed to make this gig my probably least favourite one of the four on this tour.
Next I have to go to find AnnBritt. But already leaving the tent is rather difficult, there is so many people that it takes me about 20 minutes to do so. I find her in the first aid tent. Her ribs hurt badly and the first aid people want to send her to a hospital. But she refuses. All she wants is to see The Prodigy next day in Belgium. Even if its with a broken rib. So they give her some strong painkillers and she promises to leave the festival next morning with the first train. Which is of course true, but she doesn't tell them that she is going straight to the next one. Mad.
We have to wait around until 4am now for the first train towards Belgium, but time is well spent as we get a chance to meet some of the band, and in fact, even ex-dancer Leeroy Thornhill is around in the backstage. Chatting to Liam and Keith gives me the impression that Liam is really inspired again now, and that the whole band seem very motivated and eager to get back on the road and get some new material out. Nice! Seems as if The Prodigy indeed are finally back! Of course I am also quite curious about the new tracks, and it seems as if the Sex Pistols feel to 'Nuclear' was indeed intended. "I've always wanted to write a Pistols track", grins Liam. Right then. This of course means that the critics who have said that 'The Prodigy have become a Sex Pistols tribute act' were kind of right. But it also means that Nuclear seems to be a one-off (i think ...).
At 4am, without having had any sleep, we take a taxi to Lelystad station and then the first train to Amsterdam Shiphol. Finally, civilisation again! At 6am we got a train to Antwerpen in Belgium, and arrive just at about 8.30am. Now, what to do? The Pukkelpop festival is only another 45min away and everything is closed now. But what we find next to the trainstation is..... an EasyEverything Internet cafe! I know how incredibly sad this is, but there's really nothing else to do ... and they give us 3 hours Internet access for just below UK£1! So in this place I'd like to apologize to everyone (you know who you are) who has received some weirdish mail or message from me from that morning ;).
After 2 hours we get tired of the net and go back to the station now and take the train towards Hasselt and with a local train to Kiewit. I can't believe how cheap the train fares are over here, for the whole 4,5 hour journey Lelystad to Kiewit we pay just about UK£15. In England that's what it costs me to get from London Liverpool Street Station to the airport in Stansted. one way.
We arrive at Pukkelpop quite early just before midday. The festival itself makes such a nice change to Lowlands. Although this is the 3rd and final day of Pukkelpop, it is indeed still very clean and does not smell of piss all over the place (like Lowlands did).
It's damn hot though. We are finally putting up our tent now, and realizing that we haven't slept since Friday morning it would be a good idea to get some sleep now. But, its way too hot, so we can't wait to leave that tent again and get some cold water and watermelon. No sleep then, but who cares, I know I wont fall asleep once Prodigy are on stage!
All afternoon we watch exactly one single single band, Sahara Hotnights, some girly punk band. AnnBritt wants to see them, but we're so dead from the heat that we spend the rest of the afternoon in the catering area and try to chill out a bit away from the sun. Also AnnBritt is of course still in huge pain, she cannot move, cannot laugh and almost cannot sit either. But, she is decided to see that Prodigy gig, she wouldn't want to miss it for anything in the world. One day later, back in Denmark, she will go to a hospital and indeed find out that she had two broken ribs and a collapsed lung! So dangerous and painful that they will indeed keep her in the hospital for some days...!
At about 6pm we finally also meet Damon again, who has only just arrived from Holland. Really good to see him again too! Stone Temple Pilots are on, but its still way too hot, we can't be bothered to go and watch them which is a bit a shame really. Only at aruond 8pm we then finally make our way towards the front. Heather Nova is on. Boooooring. Some woman peforming slow guitar songs, exactly what i need before a Prodigy gig. After she is finished we do get to the front now. This time on the left side of the gangway, which now unfortunately happens to be the more crowded side. shit happens.
Muse come on and manage to be even more boring than the night before. Or it might just be me getting a bit tired now. I want to see The Prodigy, HERE and NOW!!
Muse finish at 10.45pm and there's another hour left for The Prodigy to come on stage. More and more people push to the front and we now finally manage to convince AnnBritt to go and watch the gig from the back, just ONCE!
At 11.40pm Prodigy start their gig, of course with the usual army marsh intro, then the 'forever and ever' sample which then leads us into Their Law. It is brilliant, there is quite a lot of space this time and when, during Their Law, Maxim shouts 'JUMP!', you can actually infact do so. And thats where you realize that it was just all so worth it. The whole hassle and stress of the last 10 days, travelling throughout the night, an uncomfortable tent to stay in or nowhere to stay at all, risking your university degree, missing days at work, no sleep at all, all that is forgotten and you just don't want to be anywhere else in this world than right there and at that gig!
No power cuts this time, and the show absolutely rocks! Trigger now starts and this time features again the 'One, one, one' sample, which has meanwhile been identified in the track 'Digital' by KRS One feat. Goldie (thanks Spence!).
Again Breathe and Smack my Bitch up get huge crowd reaction and in between them the link this time features Maxim shouting 'I can see the faces, but I can't hear no noise!'.
As at the shows before, the Climbatize link follows and then Mindfields. During the latter Keith is runnning back and forwards in the gangway going through the crowd, giving his security people a hard time following him!
And next of course Nuclear again. And it's there and at that gig where I realize that from the whole set this is indeed the only track that has the same sort of energy as Their Law. The critics can say what they want, and of course its not a complete novelty track as you might expect it from Liam Howlett, but when you're there at the gig, this track does just rule. I can't help it, but have to fall in love with this song.
This gig is amazing! Poison kicks in and you remember that there used to be a time where it was a novelty for a Prodigy track to have a band member actually doing real vocals. Nowadays its so different, almost all tracks during the whole show have vocals by Maxim and / or Keith Flint. There is no 'Maxim is the MC' and 'Keith is the dancer' roleplay anymore, both of them are madman and performer in one and still both are so completely different. Now with two such intense characters at the front, what are the others doing? Liam Howlett is of course busy behind his keyboards, his role hasn't really changed, but you might notice that his place is now much more in the centre of the stage than it used to be, he's now right there close to the front. Almost a bit too far away hidden is Kieron Pepper behind his drumkit, providing live drums for every single track of the show, and not like live guitar on a 'on and off' basis (which of course kind of figures, since all tracks have beats, but not all have guitars). And then Alli, the new live guitarist, very reserved and 'evil looking' on stage, and with a a personality that fits perfectly into the band.
And that's what she does during the next track, Firestarter. Its now Keith's turn to perform his vocals and, as we all can imagine, probably every single person at the festival does know Firestarter and the atmosphere is quite euphoric. A good time for the band to leave the stage to make us shout for more. And they do come back and give us more, and, very much like at the Bizarre Festival, start to play Charly (Alley Cat Mix)! This track then followed by punk cover Fuel My Fire is of course indeed a bit an aprupt change, but works fantastic.
By the time the gig is finished I realize this has been another very great gig by The Prodigy, if not one of the best ones. And I'm again where I was before, all criticism blown out of the window. shit.
many thanks to The Prodigy & Midi Management
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