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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prodigy Thrills a Packed Manezh

In a striking exception to the rule that nothing cool comes to Moscow until it's already old hat in the West, British techno rockers the Prodigy, played a high-energy, 70 minute show for an enormous crowd at Manezh Square on Saturday night.


The concert was the finale to a ten-hour, adrenaline-infused marathon on the square, featuring a freestyle snowboarding competition on a giant ramp covered with artificial snow and a soundtrack for the day provided by DJs from Cream, England's trendiest nightclub.


There could hardly have been a choice of band more likely to please the youth of Moscow, where graffiti proclaiming the greatness of the Prodigy can be found on the walls of nearly every building.


Some eager fans were already camped out on the square early Saturday morning to get as close to the show as possible.


"This is pure ecstasy," said student Dmitry Zheleztsov, 18, who came for the event from his native Pavlovskaya Sloboda in the Moscow region together with a bunch of girlfriends with the name of the band written all over their faces. "We heard a rumor about [the concert] a month ago and since then have been running around hog-wild happy."


By 7:30 p.m. all the nearby kiosks had run out of alcohol, and the crowd of mostly teenagers ignored the freezing rain and danced feverishly to the techno music pumping out of the sound system. The crowd occasionally roared its approval for the graceful mid-air pirouettes of snowboarders in baggy pants, who performed their feats against the backdrop of a scaffolded Kremlin tower.


Shortly after 9 p.m., shattered-glass breakbeats rang out at an earsplitting volume and the Prodigy's front man, Maxim, strode to the edge of the stage with a demonic expression on his face, projected onto two large screens on both sides of the blue seashell of a stage. The Prodigy's state-of-the-art fusion of dance energy, rock power and visual madness had arrived. The energy level in the crowd soared and Manezh Square was transformed into a sort of massive shaking animal.


The Prodigy played mostly songs from their most recent album, "The Fat of the Land," which went straight to No. 1 in 23 countries after its release last summer. Special crowd-pleasers were the multimillion-selling singles "Breathe" and "Firestarter." "I'm in paradise," screamed a girl who was wildly dancing, squeaking and shouting requests for "Firestarter," as the first distinctive beats of the song rang out.


As much as the crowd might have enjoyed the music, the breaks between songs suffered somewhat from the linguistic gap between the singers and the audience. Several of the band's attempts at the call and response that is the staple of stadium rock shows everywhere were met by an uncomprehending silence.


Les Ryder, a regular at Liverpool's Cream for three years, was one of the DJs spinning tracks during the day. The Liverpudlian with dreadlocked ginger hair down to his thighs, said that coming to Moscow had been an eye-opening experience for him.


"Moscow is an amazing place," he said. "It's brilliant to come here and see people react in the same [way] as the rest of the world. ... It's been a massive event, it's been brilliant. The Prodigy are a wicked live band for winding the crowd up."


Some show-goers were nonetheless critical.


"That was crap, another concert for the police," complained Roman Starchenko, 18, after the show.


"That was almost the same thing as at the City Day -- too many people, we couldn't see anything. Everybody in the front was stepped all over."


Saturday's event was the latest in the Urban Highs series of shows sponsored by Ballantine's in major European cities over the last year.


The series aims to appeal to the fascinations of today's young people by combining extreme sports, cutting edge music and modern technology.


Moscow is the show's fourth stop on a tour of European cities that started with Berlin, Prague and Milan. Valencia and Paris are next on the list.


Three of the band's members showed up at the after-party at the Utopia Club.


"I didn't think there'd be so many people [at the concert]... there must've been a million. It was fantastic," said the Prodigy's Giz Butt. The self-proclaimed "guitar terrorist" with spiky blue hair was hanging out with Tutta Larsen, a bald and multiple-pierced presenter of Biz TV, the Russian version of MTV.


However, he said that he was disappointed with his own performance that night.


"I would've enjoyed it better if I played better," he said. "I don't think I played very well."


Peroxided and leather-clad Keith Flint seemed a bit bored. When asked to say a word about the band's music, he responded laconically: "Our music? Beat and noise, isn't it?"





-- Kevin O'Flynn contributed to this report.