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The Prodigy Invades SoCal

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Review by Scott Cahill, Special to LAist

What do oyster shooters, corned beef tacos, the Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Club, Hoegaarden beer and the English techno band the Prodigy all have in common? If you're answer was, "Name five things I experienced on Tuesday May 26, 2009", you'd be right.

The evening started a stone's throw from Angel Stadium, with the bartender at King's Fish House challenging me to do a shot of Cajun Power Garlic Sauce in exchange for one large premium oyster on the half shell. It was a challenge that I couldn't pass up, and what started off as a pre-concert nosh turned into a low-budget episode of "Man vs Food" with the evening not quite out of the starting gate. It was about this point I noticed that female employees at Kings Fish all seemed to have at least two different hair colors, with our bartender being no exception. I remembered the good old days when I used to have enough hair to experiment with, but not before I ordered three more oyster shooters from the Happy Hour menu. My cohort was unhappy with the fish tacos, citing the absence of fish so we decided to make a move.A mere 15 Yards away, we settled in at The Auld Dubliner, a quaint Irish pub (corporate-owned albeit) with locations scattered across the southwest. I ordered a Hoegaarden and threw the dice that even in a corporate Irish pub in Anaheim "Taco Tuesday" may prove to be universal by getting one of the fish tacos as well as one of the corned beef tacos. Much to my amazement, the corn tortillas were arguably the softest I've ever had, even softer then the warmed right off the grill tortillas sold at my local Mexican grocer. The fish was battered and a healthy portion (if one can use the phrase 'healthy' in conjunction with the words 'battered' and 'fried'). The corned beef was sliced thin and served with a mild horseradish sauce. I quipped that the King's Fish House happy hour is in deep trouble when the Irish pub next door is putting out a better fish taco. I finished my beer at roughly the same time the Pittsburgh Penguin's Eastern Conference Championship was being shown on the bar's monitors along with an NBA game. This was no time for celebration though, I had a concert to review.

We entered the Grove of Anaheim just in time to see the last bit of opening act the Glitch Mob. I hand it to them, it's a clever name and they had what may be commonplace for today's young musicians but a novelty for me, in that not only were there no instruments but there weren't even keyboards. In lieu of instruments, the trio were all "playing" (if one can actually call it that) what appeared to be three touch-screen monitors, all placed so as the audience could see them occasionally push one part of the screen or the other and emit different loops and patterns. One part Kraftwerk and one part the local high school's AV club; I couldn't help being really happy for these guys to be living a dream and opening the show for an act like the Prodigy. It must have really been quite the mind-blow for the boys. And while the "laptop rock" struck me as a semi-novelty, and I wouldn't say I was blown away or mega-impressed by the unique ensemble, one could only ponder if people back in the day said the same things about Tangerine Dream. But once again I couldn't help but think, "When did the touch-screen monitor become an official instrument?".

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As their set ended and the crowd started to mass in heated anticipation, I noted how the roadies of today must have it a lot easier than those of yesteryear. Case in point - taking down the Glitch Mob's setup consisted of unplugging a few wires and simply carrying the whole damn table off of the stage. It took longer for the Prodigy's roadie to prepare the band's water than it did to completely tear down the Glitch Mob's setup.

Moments later, roughly 9:35, the lights dimmed and the band took the stage with a fury. The distinct swagger and confidence that emanated from the stage was special. One could see why the Prodigy headlines mega-festival after mega-festival in Europe and can inspire legions of fans. We often talk of the "It" factor and there is no question the Prodigy has "It" and on any given night can steal the show from anyone. I wondered what went through their minds seeing the lights of Angel Stadium, knowing they've sold out Wembley Stadium while playing what probably seemed like a garden shed by comparison.

Busting out the old and the new material, they started ablaze with "Worlds on Fire" segueing right into "Breathe" before taking on what will for certain be a future staple in "Omen". There was little frivolity from frontman Maxim Reality and even less from Keith Flint, who literally was a ball of energy from start to finish. I was impressed to see an actual guitar player as well as a drummer in addition to the keyboard wizardry of Prodigy mastermind Liam Howlett. As the aural barrage took over and savaged the room, two thoughts crossed my mind; 1) Is there such thing as a guitar transcription for any Prodigy song? and 2) Will the room's foundation and wall supports still be intact for the upcoming Grove show with Jimmy Fallon? One thing that is certain, I pity the guy who gets the unenviable task of being selected to compile the music for "Mel Bay Presents the Best of the Prodigy for Easy Acoustic Guitar".

Wave after wave of chest-pounding uber-thump in conjunction with a light show that could have triggered epileptic seizures for those in the crowd not on ecstacy, I literally felt my inner organs vibrating and pulsating....and I loved every minute despite the strange sensation of knowing that Howlett's ability to hit sub-clinical frequencies at eardrum bursting decibles may very well have been contributing to the expanding size of my hernia...but in a good way.

And the night was not without its surreal moments; growing up in Huntington Beach I never thought I'd live to see the day when a black guy from England would be standing center stage in one of the county's premiere venues, in Anaheim Stadium's parking lot no less, imploring the crowd with the line "Let's hear it from all my warriors in OC, Where are my warriors from Anaheim?" Never in a million years.

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Highlight of the show had to be extended mix of "Firestarter". Maxim Reality left the stage and Keith took over like a man possessed. If there were a portion of the show that could be compared to Rock and Roll this was it. I don't think anyone will ever compare Flint to any of Rock Music's great front men, but watching him standing in the middle of the stage and whipping the crowd into a frenzy, I couldn't help but think the pale skin and blond hair echoed a tougher, sharper version of Johnny Rotten. As the song went on into some extended mixes, I could hear for the first and maybe last time on the evening some distinct guitar riffs and even some interplay between guitar and drums before kicking back into a heavy industrial trance groove that tied it back together. When and if this clip ever hits YouTube it will be an instant classic.

Maxim came back on the stage and memorable moment #2 came in the form of "Comanche" - the industrial version of the Doors occasional tribute to the American Indian, best described as an infectious, repetitious, psuedo-hypnotic slug of a stomping grove that solidified, if not embodied the spirit of the night and conjured up a newer modern digital ode to Native American mysticism.

Strangely enough, though I'm not a huge fan of the genre, I became acclimated and accustomed to the steady pulse and found myself at times with eyes closed, letting my mind roam in some sort of cyber-binary helter skelter that was a welcome reprieve from time, age, HOA bills, and staggering debt. And while a layman would assume every song sounded alike or at least similar enough; I was impressed with the range, the clarity, the ferocity the band radiated to the point where I completely forgot about trying to work in a Jason Statham reference to this review.

If the Prodigy could perform at this level and muster and draw this type of frenetic energy for a thousand or so OC'ers known for laid-back lethargy, one can only imagine the impact they'll have at the upcoming Isle of Wight festival. My bet says you'll be hearing big things about them this summer.......with or without Jason Statham.