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Massive Attack - Westonbirt Arboretum

02 August 2006

Amidst truly impressive trees in the great outdoors of Gloucestershire, Massive Attack's one-off concert is the closest the boys are likely to get to a home coming this year...

I see old oaks, weeping willows and plenty of ash trees but there seems to be no young saplings standing in the audience for the Arboretum gig. Far be it from me to be ‘wooden’ but I was at Bristol’s Ashton Court festival the weekend before and the place was chocked full of Kappa-capped happy-slapping toothless bedgers. Caning all the pear cider - when they would have been just as happy and belligerent and uncouth on a three litre bottle of White Lightening.

You see ‘the kids’ don’t care about Massive Attack. In my opinion they are the most important band of the last 10 years, responsible for music that really did change my whole perception of what music could be. Which made me re-asses my musical taste. Before Massive Attack I was a fucking Roxette fan

Even though Roxette have weathered worse in the Savage Garden, it seems Massive Attack are no longer cool. I don’t care I’ve spent the whole day being un-cool and totally enjoyed it. In fact in many ways I would give equal weight to our picnic and lovely surroundings. The gig was an added extra - like fireworks at Alton Towers. When we finally leave the forest we saunter into the arena. A woman’s warbling on stage, mostly giving a sunny Soul II Soul vibe but occasionally getting too R ‘n’ B. This is followed by a band with a daft name. So daft I shouted it out loud in disbelief. Now I can’t remember who they were but they had a good harmonica.  The support highlight was Terry Callier, well at least until after an energetic start, he left the stage. It seems that he was having the same diabetic problem that Axel Rose was having at his gig.

Slightly jaded by this and then slapped round the face by two quick shower bursts we were just thankful when Massive Attack hit the stage. 3D dominates the Halloween sounding False Flags. With arch anti-war raspiness he sets out his doomsday vision, before settling back behind his keyboards to add loops to the trance. On walks Daddy G and brightly asks us whether “We’re happy” before laying down more menace on Risingson. It’s time for a woman’s touch and Lin Fraser skips in from the wings in her pyjamas to deliver a sweet glass of night time Black Milk. Next, “a man who needs no introduction,” says Daddy G: Horace Andy, everyone does the shoe-gaze skank to Man Next Door. As the guests and even Daddy G exit, 3D and the session band are centre stage, before Daddy G and 3D share Karmacoma. The hard hitters fly out with the Hymn Of The Big Wheel, properly resonating with the smiling masses - and Teardrop making our collective hearts flutter. This then scats into Butterfly Caught which Horace Andy swoops into Angel. We end the set as many of us began, with Safe From Harm.

After the encore, 3D announces that Terry’s okay but unfortunately will watch the performance from the side of the stage. The drama of Inertia Creeps is upstaged slightly when Unfinished Sympathy comes in. As great an encore song as there ever was, if marred slightly by the fact that the singer couldn’t quite remember the words and went for a little break half way through. Group 4 is the closer, a spiralling behemoth of a rock song with pocket facts and figures about people in various conflicts. We all pack up our hampers load them into our various petrol guzzling cars whilst Massive Attack get into their Humvees and fight another war from their studios.

- Click here to discuss this on the Festival Forums!
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Article by: Dan Davies

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