After aimlessly traipsing through the back of muddy woodland Stanley Park for just under two hours one would surmise that standing in the rain another few hours listening to a band whose album 100th Window mostly contained minimal loops and a dark delve into classical music, would be torturous. On the contrary; Massive Attack, led by their ten-strong entourage including reggae legend Horace Andy, have been known to kick it up a notch live, and they certainly did in this energetic albeit brief show.
Focusing on tracks from their last album Heligoland and ’90s classic Mezzanine (only three songs were performed from other albums; “Futureproof”, “Safe from Harm” and “Unfinished Sympathy”), Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grantley “Daddy G” Marshall were the catalysts that allowed Martina Topley-Bird (who played with them after she opened) and guest singer Deborah Miller to shine. The collective effort resulted in a mysterious feel that played on Berthold Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, the distancing effect between the audience and the actors on stage. This was done to engage them in the very-real global dilemmas, in this case the subliminal messages flashing across the stage that recounted everything from the “War on Oil” in the Middle East to the alarming number of pizzas consumed in the U.S. And while it was the bands’ mystique that created almost-hushed fan recognition it was the progressive, enchanting bass and appropriately-used guitar riffs that jolted them out of their hypnotic trance.
Elements of the trip-hop that served the band so well early on in their career was scant yet when it did arrive in the form of lyrical-wordplay “Risingson” it had most of the old school audience bouncing up and down uncontrollably. That’s not to say 3D and Daddy G weren’t in their element performing the more synth-oriented songs. Daddy G’s dark, brooding voice was as much haunting as 3D’s renowned echoing whisper. This was evident with the hugely popular “Inertia Creeps” and the politically-charged “United Snakes” while Topley-Bird, who had already performed the bands’ “Karmacoma” in her set rang-out beautifully serene versions of “Teardrop” and Massive Attack’s alumni Tricky’s “Overcome”.
Deborah Miller did a fantastic job living up to the standards Shara Nelson set in the early ’90s by belting out “Safe from Harm” and “Unfinished Sympathy” but it was Horace Andy who stole the show that had more of a dub feel to it at times with an astounding version of “Angel” that seemed to stop time for a moment as all eyes centred on the motionless Rastafarian. The show concluded with the mesmerising “Atlas Air” that seemed to last forever but in reality was only a tenth of the entire gig which didn’t go down too well with 3D who chimed that the bands’ early curfew was because they “were to night what garlic is to vampires.” Judging by the mystique of this performance I’d say they were more like angels!