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Live: The Prodigy party like it's 1997

May 28, 2009 |  4:51 pm

To the American casual observer, U.K. dance act  the Prodigy were an immensely popular but passing fancy of the late ‘90s. But to a generation of electronic music fans and ex-ravers, the band is akin to a plugged-in version of the Sex Pistols.

Most will remember the Prodigy for their 1997 album, “The Fat of the Land,” which spawned the singles “Breathe,” “Firestarter” and the controversial “Smack My Bitch Up.” They were the first act to successfully put a face and identity to the nascent American rave scene of the decade.

But before that, the Prodigy were already stars of the European underground. Churning out such early dance hits as “Charly” and “Out of Space,” the band was an integral part of the U.K. rave scene that inspired the American party circuit. The Prodigy has influenced many current electronic acts, especially if the trend toward classic rave sounds on the dance floor is any indication.

At their surprisingly triumphant show at the Hollywood Palladium on Wednesday night, it was as if most of the past decade had never happened. The vast main floor was packed with bodies, while the VIP balcony was just as congested, with celebrities such as British rapper Lady Sovereign and actress Rachel Hunter in attendance.

Onstage, the band’s rave ‘n’ roll punk ethos was on full display. Frontmen Keith Flint and partner Maxim Reality traded screams over the bombastic breakbeats generated by Liam Howlett, and the band was accompanied by a live drummer and bass/guitar player.

Leaning heavily on their new album and retro-tinged tunes such as “Warrior’s Dance,” they also made sure to appease the crowds with hits, playing “Breathe” to a rapturous response early in the show. If there’s one thing a majority of the current glut of dance acts could learn from the Prodigy, it's how to perform. Combining the confrontational energy of hip-hop with a decidedly punk rock attitude results in a show that’s never boring and easy to enjoy. At its best, the Prodigy’s music exudes a lawless, infectious energy.

Still, it was during the encore performance of “Smack My Bitch Up” that the Prodigy's full power was revealed. While the main area writhed with dancers, the real story was on the periphery, where individuals lost in their own rave-tastic worlds -- most a lot older than the youngsters in the pit -- made like Billy Idol and danced with themselves.

Rave memories die hard. But if this Prodigy show was any indication, they don’t have to die at all.

-- Scott T. Sterling

Photo: Magnum PR