Live Review: The Prodigy, Public Enemy

Disappointment and nostalgic thrills from an ‘upside down’ bill.

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When I first saw Public Enemy, at the beginning of the 90s, around the time of their third album, Fear Of A Black Planet, they played to a predominantly black audience. If the band suffer Fear Of A White Audience, then they’re out of luck. Because nowadays they play to a predominantly Caucasian, if thoroughly appreciative, assembly.

Public Enemy are a bit of a time capsule: the same logo, fatigues and the Security of the First World still going through their curiously camp manoeuvres. But they cut across race and time with still-incendiary rhymes with the likes of Don’t Believe The Hype and He Got Game, as well as some politicking: “Bombing Syria is some dumb-ass shit,” spits Chuck D.

The Prodigy should be embarrassed about being supported by Public Enemy; like BB King supporting Robert Cray. Still, they have a massively superior Main Event light show which gives them the advantage. The Prodigy were one of the first groups to emerge from rave and electronica to harbour big, rock ambitions, and they’re certainly of that scale tonight. It’s ironic that their main creative force, Liam Howlett, is barely visible; he might not even be on stage, for all we know. Hits Omen, Firestarter and No Good impact like barrages but, unlike Public Enemy and despite implying otherwise, Prodigy bring noise that’s bereft of meaning or content. They rock, that’s all.

We've always got time for PE's Flavor Flav.

We've always got time for PE's Flavor Flav.

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.