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review by neko. pictures from 'crossbeat'

  Wednesday, 06/2/02: NK Hall, Tokyo Bay, Japan


"Sumimasen, Tokyo station wa, doko desu ka?", this is me, asking for directions in Tokyo. In an attempt to walk from Otemachi subway station to the JR Tokyo station I've already gone lost. The people answer nicely. I can't understand a word they are saying, but they point me into the right direction, "arigato gozai-masu!". I've only just arrived today in Tokyo from Perth in Australia where I saw Prodigy 3 days ago in the summer sun, even have had the great pleasure to have a few drinks with those guys after the gig, and tonight will be their last show on this tour, here in Tokyo. This Tokyo show is just so perfect. When i was planning my trip to Australia I figured out I can get a free stopover anywhere in Asia on the way back. As I had wanted to go back to Japan for the last 5 years anyway (I once spent a whole summer in Osaka), Tokyo was of course my chosen stopover. So finding out that Prodigy would even play a one-off gig here was then of course very good news indeed. (that just my excuse for coming here).

It's very strange being here. While Australia could kind of feel like being in England (well, apart from the weather), this here is now definitely different. I used to have this Japan obsession and even studied the language for a while (hence my nick) and now its all sort of coming back. I just love this place. Thanks to the people helping me i find Tokyo station. Flashback again, I remember there's this huge underground shopping mall in this station. And I really mean huge. It's a bit like Oxford street in London, just underground. No, CAN'T go in there now, I have to go and catch a train on the JR Keiyoo line to Maihama.

At Maihama I meet up with Yuki, a Japanese girl I know from Sydney who's also followed The Prodge around quite a bit in the past, and a friend of hers. We catch some shuttle bus to the NK Hall (what a crap name for a venue?) and get there shortly after 5pm. There is one hell of a huge queue a bit outside of the hall. It looks as if they are waiting to get in and are queuing to get the best spots, but no, we find out that they are queuing for the merchandise stand, which is being prepared outside the venue! I have a little look at the stuff being sold there. There's the girly white shirt with the half ant and the words 'Always outnumbered, never outgunned' and the grey shirt with the drawn band with machineguns as they were sold in Australia. Also, there's a black shirt specially for the Tokyo show, looking similarly like the red one they had for Australia, also with guns at the front but at the back a map of Japan with the Prodigy logo pointing at Tokyo and the date and place of the show. Apart from that they funnily also seem to be selling the rest of the merchandise from the last summer tour with the tourdates from Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium at the back. hehe. I can't believe how people are literally jumping on the merchandise. The Tokyo shirt would have been kinda cool, but I can't really be bothered to queue one hour in the cold just to buy a shirt! And who knows, they might sell the spare ones on the next UK tour anyway.

It's 5.45pm now and its getting rather crowded around the NK Hall. There's security people all over making announcments with microphones. Everything's handled very organized, there's different queues for different tickets and even the standing area is divided in different sections. If you have 'C' you loose out, as you have to stand way at the back! But we haven't and get a cool front row spot, woohoo!

Now, in England, when you go to a gig, the kind of first thing most people do is to go to the bar and order a drink. And another one. Then sort of half drunk with a beer in the hand watch the show. Very different here. No drinking in here at all. Not even water, just nothing is permitted. If you even think about 'food', 'drink' or 'camera', you will be thrown out. That means no vodka lemons before the show for me for once. maybe better.

The size of the venue is cool, but for an indoors gig probably a bit the upper limit for the Prodigy from a fan's point of view, about half the size of Wembley Arena, just a bit bigger than Brixton Academy and apart from a few seating tickets the show is almost sold out. 7.30pm then the gig starts with opener Mad Capsule Market, a crazy bunch of Japanese people performing some full-on mix of Techno and Metal. It's not really a band you'd need to see more than once, but its definitely a great warm-up kind of band. And definitely far more worthwhile than Silverchair. Many of those crazy Japanese people around me are going mad already. After 30 minutes the whole thing is over and the stage is being prepared for The Prodigy now. To pass the time, Prodigy have flown in their own DJ from the Lilypad, but although he plays a couple of interesting tracks, he completely fails to get the crowd moving at all. Even Liam Howlett DJing for Madonna got more crowd reaction than that. Only when the lights go out and the people realize its not long until the show will start, they start to cheer now and shout for "Prodigy!".

And not long until they come on stage, of course not without their usual announcment by their soundman: "who wants it?...from the UK... it's The Prodigy!". Liam on keyboards, Kieron on drums, this time again the weirdish kind of noises at the beginning of the army march intro. I actually start to love this intro a lot, it creates a sort of tension and then ends with this really cheesy sample leading into the dark sounds of Their Law. But before that Maxim also enters the stage accompanied by a lot of cheering. Now the start of Their Law, Keith's running on stage and of course also Jim on guitars. Their Law rocks, but it really always does, this still is the best live track ever. It doesn't make any difference anymore now whether this is a gig in Europe, Australia or here in Japan, the crowd reaction is similar as anywhere else. There's people jumping, shouting and also the occasional crowdsurfer. In some way the Japanese are not as mad I expected though. I don't know, maybe it is the way that this gig was handled, all organized, no drinks, etc, which could be a bit of a mood-killer for many people. I mean, just compare being in some smallish cool dark club, having a few drinks, then watch the band from the space you want to, or having to go into this huge sterile hall, almost being told where you have to stand and not be allowed to do anything else apart from standing there until the show starts. I know which gig I'd enjoy more. But then again, who cares about details, it's the Prodigy on stage after all. Their Law is followed by Trigger, for most of the audience probably a completely new track. The start of it has changed a little. It used to start with the 'one, one, one' sample, now it starts with the piano line and then the 'one, one, one' is played (a bit modified) shortly after. I kind of liked the old version better, but maybe just cause i'm used to it. At the end of it also Keith's usual 'yes, I fuckin' do!'

As soon as Trigger ends, Liam plays the opening of Breathe. As usual the track goes down very well, its full of energy and of course everyone knows it.
The dowtempo fill after Breathe seems to have become some sort of an experimental ground for Keith and Maxim and the vocals with it. At just about every show they kind of peformed different vocals with that track, sometimes none at all. I hope this fill will turn into a full track, it has a lot of potential (it might even get a name some day). This kind of experimental and spontanous element is in many ways a bit what has gone missing compared to older shows by The Prodigy, which is a bit a shame.

Smack My Bitch Up is usually one of the best live tracks by The Prodigy, but tonight I find it rather average for some reason. Again crowd reaction could have been more intense, from what i have heard about Japanese gigs.

It would have probably been a bit naive to expect them to play another new track here, just because this is a headline show rather than a festival appearance like Big Day Out, but I thought they might play one or two more tracks, old ones. And that's exactly what's happening now, after SMBU follows Blow Ya Mind, a jamtrack based on the Diesel Power instrumental with Maxim on vocals. Don't know when that got played last, a good track, but its re-addition to the set just isn't as exciting as for example Benny Blanco.

After that, Babys got a temper, the newest track. Apparently some low-quality recording of this track has now surfaced on the Internet and I have all these people who now disagree with me and tell me that they think the track sucks. I'd say it's probably some huge difference whether you're sitting at home on your dodgy computer listening to some low standard soundfile with no bass, only half of the beats and a distorted sounding Keith instead of being there and experiencing the real thing, live. I know I'd listen to the soundfile too though, and there isn't really anything that can stop those from spreading, apart from good quality recordings of gigs being broadcasted. But in case of Prodigy that's wishful thinking. And in the end, there's still nothing that beats being at a show and hearing a new track live for the first time. For me the more I hear Babys got a temper (the 7th time tonight), the more the kind of darker sounds of it become apparent. In my opinion definitely good stuff.

The Climbatize horns tonight are the opener for Mindfields. Keith stays on stage and it's him doing the first parts of the vocals with that track, before then Maxim re-enters and for the rest of Mindfields the vocals are done by both of them. I'm not quite sure what to think about the transformation that's happened to that track over this tour. The addition of Keith doing vocals within this track as well might add a certain new element to it, but it's just too much a typical Maxim track. It's like you can't imagine Maxim going 'I'm a firestarter'.

Nuclear is next. I am now sure, the structure of the track has changed, compared to the version played in Avenches last summer at least. I've been sad enough to write down the whole structure based on the Avenches recording from last summer while I was in the airplane. Now if you're not interested in details you better skip to the next paragraph. But basically, the Avenches version goes: first instrumental opening, then Maxim's 'every action a reaction, every action...', instrumental again, then Keith 'say you got guns....' x3, then instrumental again, and Maxim again 'every action....', then instrumental followed by long vocals by Maxim. Now in the new version, directly after Keith's 'say you got guns...' are Maxim's long vocals. I believe also in other places some of the instrumental parts have been shortened or disappeared. I guess this is why I thought it sounded different and although only the structure has changed it makes it kind of shorter.

Poison follows, this track actually really rocks tonight. As usual Maxim makes the audience sing along for parts of the song and it's kinda funny, as they dont quite get the lyrics right ("I've got the poison, I've got the remedy, I've got the poison, the poison, the poison!") but who cares, as long as they sing along.

A highlight of the gig follows for me with Benny Blanco, which goes down very well with the audience. Maxim leaves the stage and Firestarter is of course next, as usual a common favourite, before the rest of the band leave the stage.

It actually takes quite a while until people start to shout for more, but once they do it doesn't take long until the band return on stage. It's not all that hard to figure out what will be the next track played, of course it's gonna be Fuel my Fire, commonly the encore and closing song of the Prodigy shows these days. And also today I think that that's been it now, gig over, tour over, finished.
And just when you think its all over....what track's being played here after Fuel My Fire? it's indeed good old Rhythm Of Life! Definitely a nice surprise here and one out of many highlights on this tour.

And after that last bit they now leave the stage and that's been it now, 7 shows in 6 different timezones within less than 3 weeks. Not bad. I'm not quite sure what to think about the Tokyo show as a whole in comparison to the others. I have had these super-high expectations of this gig that it would become the best ever with an absolutely mad audience and a super special setlist. This hasn't quite happened, however it was a good show, obviously the best setlist for a while and the coolest city, but Melbourne still remains unbeaten, at least on this tour.

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