Massive Attack’s Five Night Stand

You haven't done anything for nearly five years and need to quickly re-establish your importance as the world's leading force in alternative/dance crossover. Five night's trip hopping at Brixton is always a good start.

[l-zone1]Bristol City, the home of “a nice rack”, a cheesy hospital drama and….. well, that’s about it if you don’t count that tiny insignificant little genre dubbed Trip-Hop which blew up some years back with the help of local residents Tricky, Portishead, and, by far-and-away the most important, Massive Attack.

New LP ‘100th Window‘ was released recently under the weight of so much anticipation that practically anything would have been a letdown. Over four years since the release of landmark groundbreaker ‘Mezzanine‘, without Grant Marshall and under the shadow of 3D‘s farcical police investigation for child porn, Massive Attack now stand at a crossroads. How to suddenly switch everyone back on to their existence and convince them of their relevance once again? Well, an unprecedented five night residency at London’s premier music venue always helps.

[r-zone2]Though their new record may have forgotten to include killer, nay ‘instant’ singles, (‘Future Proof‘ is only now beginning to unravel its full genius, opening the show tonight); they haven’t forgotten how to put on a show. Their touring neon zoo concentrates instead on recreating the dark electric paranoia of the new album by wrapping a warped mix of binary code and animations around peoples’ retinas whilst playing Laserquest with the lighting rig. There’s a tip: Anyone got old relatives with cataracts? Take em to see Massive Attack, that’ll fix it, and save a lot of waiting time.

[l-zone3]When that unmistakable undulating subterranean bass begins, feeling like a gigantic volcanic pulse beneath one’s feet; they entertain a couple of tracks from the new album with front-man  Robert ‘3-D’ Del Naja vocals sounding strong, especially on ‘Everywhere‘. But the horror show really begins when Horace Andy steps up, his deep resonant vocals building to ‘that’ crescendo of the familiar anthem ‘Angel‘. He continues to please with ‘Name Taken‘ and a storming ‘Every Man‘. ‘Daddy G’ Marshall arrives next, to obvious crowd approval, bringing his unique talents to ‘Rising Son’, amongst others. His brooding intensity and a feeling that something really nasty is about to happen linger overhead like the sticky low ozone eminated by the whole mood of the gig. 

[l-zone4]Yet just before we’ve had the chance to be totally immersed in absolute darkness, suffocating in Del Naja‘s obvious digital depression, the breathless beauty in the voice of Dot Alison drags you out by your heart strings. The flourishing magnificence of ‘Teardrop‘ and ‘Black Milk‘ leave a feeling of pure tranquillity. The vocal highlight without a doubt.

[r-zone5]Throughout the performance a huge screen on which Matrix-style numbers scroll is interrupted intermittently by an international league table of military spending, stock exchange rates and headlines from around the world. 3D is a high profile anti-war protestor and whilst it’s nice to see a band showing political awareness, having it rammed down your brain stem throughout the entire two-hour set is pushing it a bit. It’s this overawing sense of ‘anti- everything’ which detracts from the gig. This year’s Creamfields headliners remind us all of the good times, but it’s as if they need reminding themselves. It’s not like they have to live in Bristol any more.