Alexandra Palace is one of my favourite spots in all of London. The venue lends itself to all manner of events like outdoor markets in the summer, spectacular fireworks and ice skating in the winter and of course amazing gigs all year round.
One of the higher points in the city, the views across town are wonderful and, personally, humbling. I found myself traipsing up the hill towards the grand Grade II listed building again last week with a couple of friends (after a fortifying pint of course). I was enjoying the seemingly endless expanse of city lights below us as well as picking up on the mounting excitement as we neared to top.
We were among thousands flocking to the peak for a special event. Big beat dance trio The Prodigy were touring following the release of their latest album, No Tourists, three years after the last. It had been a while since they had performed in the capital and the two dates booked sold out quickly. I must admit I hadn’t listened to them for a while, but my inner teenager who had thrashed around her bedroom to ‘Firestarter’ was not going to miss her chance of enjoying them live.
The main hall was packed with around 8,000 people; all gathered in anticipation of what was essentially to be a massive (albeit mostly middle aged) rave. The Prodigy have been making seismic waves in the techno sector since the early 90’s and fans old(er) and young were fizzing with excitement. A first for this gig was neither my friends nor I had seen them before so we were all in for a treat.
When the lights finally dimmed and the background music stopped a roar erupted from the crowd that felt almost primal. Opening strong with the classic hit ‘Breathe’, it’s an understatement to say we were whipped into a frenzy. I jumped and skanked and bounced about with the same abandon of that 15 year old alone in her bedroom.
The atmosphere among the whole crowd was so jubilant, which probably had something to do with the amount of chemical enhancement occurring (I got lots of hugs and kisses on the cheek from joyful strangers) but even aside from that there was such a good vibe in the room, maybe one of the best that I can recall. It reminded me of when a group of us saw The Libertines about four or five years ago at the same venue which we’d actually reminisced about on the way up the hill. I left that gig super sweaty as well as covered in other people’s beer but grinning ear to ear; I was anticipating leaving a Prodigy gig in a similar sticky condition.
We didn’t push forward into the heaving crowd because the squash at the front would have been unbearably claustrophobic. While I couldn’t actually see the group on stage, the sound was still excellent, the lights were incredible and we had enough space to be able to dance around without getting a causal elbow in the face. (Never an ideal situation) Approaching this gig like a fully formed adult I even brought along ear plugs, proving to myself that sometimes I am sensible.
The set list was a fantastic mix of old and new. The group’s impressive catalogue has so many favourite hits I didn’t want to anticipate any tunes for fear of disappointment. Absolute essentials like ‘Omen’, ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Voodoo People’ were thundered out with the same enthusiasm as the bangers from their new album like ‘Need Some 1’.
Catching a quick glimpse of Keith Flint on one of the side screens after my friend pointed him out to me was quite a surreal moment. In among the sweaty dancing horde, I had been thrashing out the political frustrations of the day as well as shaking off the adolescent anger I used to associate with some of the older songs. Seeing his face brought me back to reality and I felt so lucky to be seeing them live, in a town on the opposite end of the world from where I grew up, which had become home. Teenage me was in her element.
The night flew by. I barely even noticed the break before the encore and pretty soon I found myself dancing like the possessed and singing along to ‘Take Me to the Hospital’. I began to feel the looming stiffness in my limbs singing along to ‘Out of Space’ with the entire crowd as the track faded and the stage flooded with light as the group exited for the last time. We were still singing it in fact as we made our way back down the hill, with strangers joining us in our exuberant impromptu sing along.
I can’t help but sing it to myself now as I write. This gig will go down in my own story as one of the best. This show was all killer no filler, exactly what you’d expect from the techno veterans who have shown us there’s definitely no stopping them.