While many were dusting off Christmas decorations and opening advent calendars on the 1st of December the newly established SSE Arena played host to veterans of electronic dance The Prodigy, with support from long serving masters of hip hop Public Enemy.
As the eclectic crowd began to fill the SSE Arena Long Island based group Public Enemy took to the stage. Formed in 1982 during the Golden Age of Hip Hop, Public Enemy performed with high energy from the start. This made for an infectious atmosphere, with the group showing no signs of tiring of their trade, despite some members having been part of the collective long before some of the younger crowd were in nappies. Rapper Flavor Flav chose to travel around stage on a Segway throughout the set, before walking through the audience during older hit “Fight The Power”, from the group’s third studio album Fear Of A Black Planet.
The set blended old classics such as “Don’t Believe The Hype” with newer material from the group’s latest release Man Plans God Laughs. Resident disc jockey DJ Lord showcased his skills during a cut up performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, this was received particularly well. The politically charged lyrics the collective are known for were evident throughout all aspects of their performance, complete with a request for a moment of silence before “911 Is A Joke”. The crowd filtering into the arena participated with this as much as was possible, as well as responding well to other calls for participation throughout the set.
Public Enemy showed an obvious familiarity with Belfast and Northern Ireland throughout, eager to let the crowd know that “We always feel good when we come to Belfast.” This was particularly evident at the end of the set, with Flavor Flav stating that “People look to ya’ll and how you got it together,” in a speech condemning racism, separatism, and the promotion of peace. The group then ended with “Harder Than You Think”, leaving a full arena suitably warmed up and now awaiting The Prodigy.
It wasn’t too long before the arena was plunged into darkness and the familiar intro to “Breathe” sent the all ages crowd into a frenzy. The varied audience is testament to both the loyalty of The Prodigy’s older fans and the timeless nature the group’s music has in attracting the younger generation. The collective’s unique blend of electronic dance infused with rock is hard to stand still to, and those of us with seated tickets soon found ourselves on our feet. Frontmen Maxim and spikey haired Keith Flint performed with the amount of energy one would expect from The Prodigy, bounding across the stage and climbing into the audience with the kind of intensity the group are renowned for. Shouts of “Where the **** are my party people?” and the accompaniment of constant strobe lighting added to the atmosphere, with several mosh pits breaking out in the arena.
Crowd favourite “Omen” from Invaders Must Die was rapturously received, all of us belting out the chorus of “The writing’s on the wall/ It won’t go away” with the kind of enthusiasm Belfast audiences are known for. Whilst everyone had their favourites, there seemed to be no obvious favouritism between the group’s older material and that from their newest release The Day Is My Enemy. The audience’s enthusiasm was unwavering throughout title track “The Day is My Enemy” and “Rok-Weiler”.
During classics such as “Firestarter” and “Smack my Bitch up” it’s clear to see why the group have such a high standing within their genre and have sold over 25 million records worldwide. As a live act the relentless energy of both frontmen blended with founder Liam Howlett behind his various equipment brings a nineties rave to a modern day arena, with the addition of a guitarist and drummer for added intensity. Loud and lairy, but also flawless in production, The Prodigy ensured Christmas came early for those of us lucky enough to get a ticket.