The Prodigy Sons Return

PHOTO by Evgeny Filippov / RIA Novosti
Genuine love: how The Prodigy and Russia found each other

UK group The Prodigy, which has been a long-time favourite of Russian audiences, have started their first nationwide tour of Russia. Beginning with a concert in Novosibirsk on Nov 2., the tour will come to a finish at the Bud Arena on Nov. 9. Afisha.Daily remembers highlights from the British musicians’ previous visits to Russia, over the last 20 years.

Moscow, Dec. 14-15, 1995

The Prodigy's first visit to Moscow got off to a rough start when the group had to spend four hours getting through customs. To make matters worse, the musicians’ costumes didn’t arrive in Moscow for some reason. Finally, to add insult to injury, the band had to perform its first concert in Russia to a half-empty auditorium.

Many fans just didn't believe that The Prodigy would ever make it to Moscow. “At the State Central Concert Hall Rossiya, where the group was supposed to play, the angry old ladies in the box office answered the telephones and said that a Cossack choir performance was scheduled for that day,” said Dmitry Shalya, Chief Editor of “Ne Spat!” magazine.

The concert took place late on Thursday night – hardly the best time to go out clubbing. After the performance, a downcast Liam Howlett gave autographs to a handful of fans. It is hardly surprising that after their first Russian tour in 1995, The Prodigy said “We will never be coming back.”

Moscow, Sept. 27, 1997

The event was attended by a whopping 250,000 people, according to the official website of its organiser SAV Entertainment. It is not clear if that figure includes the audience of the concert on Manezhnaya Square or the overall attendance of Ballantine's Urban High, a music festival featuring The Prodigy as a headliner.

Prodigy russia 6

Rumour has it that several fans were crushed to death in the crowd; other sources reported several deaths from overdoses among the audience. The concert was broadcast the following year late at night on Sept. 25, when MTV Russia first went on air.

The phenomenal success of the concert – only two years after The Prodigy’s initial setback – remains a mystery, given the lack of contemporary music TV and access to the Internet back in the mid-1990s.

St. Petersburg, Sept. 25, 1998

A year after the concert in Moscow, the streets of St Petersburg were filled with posters advertising The Prodigy’s concert at the Yubileyny Sports Palace. The large, garish print read: “The Prodigy. Music for the ‘Jilted Generation.’ Two hours of wild energy. Live!” The caption in small letters printed below ran: “The Greatest Tribute to The Prodigy.”

Several local magazines warned their readers that the adverts were clearly misleading. “According to the organisers, the concert will be with the English band Jilted Generation, fronted by Liam Howlett, lead singer of the legendary group, The Prodigy. The group will be performing its own hits as well as several songs by The Prodigy,” one of the articles said.

Prodigy russia 5
Maxim Reality of The Prodigy performs at Park Live Festival in Moscow's VDNKh

The fake concert was staged by two brothers, Vyacheslav and Sergey Shevchenko, members of the St Petersburg Legislative Assembly and owners of the Hollywood Nights club. After hundreds of tickets were returned to the organisers, the slick operators demanded $50,000 “as compensation for lost profit” from the editor-in-chief of Teleman magazine. Anna Reznik, a producer who also informed the public about the Shevchenko brothers’ fraudulent activities, allegedly received death threats and was pushed into a rubbish bin.

In 2001, Sergei Shevchenko was convicted of extortion and put on probation for seven and a half years. The trial of his brother started in 2003, but in March 2004, Vyacheslav Shevchenko was killed in Cyprus.

2005 and 2006

On 1 April, reports came in that Keith Flint had a viral infection and the upcoming concerts in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Vilnius would be rescheduled for June. The information was dismissed by some as an April Fools joke, but it turned out to be true. Nevertheless, the concerts were a success, having gathered a younger generation of fans who grew up on "Firestarter," "Breathe," "No Good (Start the Dance"), "One Love" and many other hits. The guest tour was held to support the controversial "Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned" album which, when it was released the year before, had shown a marked move away from the group's regular sound.

The next year, The Prodigy held a series of concerts to support their singles compilation “Their Law” and made their first appearance in Yekaterinburg.

Prodigy russia 4
Keith Flint of The Prodigy performs at Luzhniki sports palace in 2006

Oct. 12, 2007: ‘Revolt of Toads’

Like many other popular groups, The Prodigy are known to have performed closed gigs for VIP guests. One such private event was called the “Revolt of Toads”: according to attendees, it was held in a plant near Shabolovskaya Metro Station in south Moscow.

“At first I thought they were look-a-likes, but after a couple of songs I realised that they were for real. Amazingly enough, the auditorium was half-empty. My friend and I looked around, trying to figure out what was happening, but the only thing we managed to find out was the name of the event, Revolt of Toads,” an accidental viewer wrote in LiveJournal.

Concert Cancellations in 2008 and 2010; a Performance in St. Petersburg in 2009

Two of The Prodigy’s scheduled appearances in Moscow were cancelled: one show was called off at the beginning of the financial meltdown in Russia in 2008, while the other was made impossible after a hurricane destroyed the stage. In 2009, however, the group came to St Petersburg, where it sent its Ice Palace audience into raptures.

2012

Some Russian fans of The Prodigy have become musicians. Evgeny Pozharnov, who performs around the world under the stage name Proxy, admitted in an interview with Afisha.Daily that he derives most of his inspiration from The Prodigy: "I like their fusion, their policy of being ‘slobs in the arts’.” The creator of The Prodigy fan club in Russia Dima Gordy opened for one of their concerts in 2012 – and subsequently created a team called BaseFace together with the band’s former concert drummer.

2014–2016

In the past few years The Prodigy concerts have become a regular feature of the Moscow music scene. The group remains a box office hit and continues to wow the audiences with "Breathe," "Firestarter" as well as more recent tracks.

Prodigy russia 2
Liam Howlett of The Prodigy in Sheremetyevo International Airport, Moscow, August 2009

Liam Howlett

Musician, The Prodigy

“We did not expect much from the concert in 1995. The audience was much more reserved; today everyone goes as crazy as they can.

“I remember the concert in 1997: it was really damn cold, and there were loads of police trying to control the audience. It was a very special concert for us as we knew that we might never play on Red Square again. We’ve given much better performances since then though - and anyway, enclosed spaces are better for the bass.

“We can't say which city is the best: Moscow is more highly-strung, while St. Petersburg is more romantic.

“I’ve never heard about the fake concert in 1998, do I need to send my team to sort that out? Haha.

“You know what? I think it would be great to stay here for a while and write music. Find some Russian musicians to work with and record crazy tracks with them. We would definitely love to do it.”