Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Massive Attack’s Mezzanine at Manchester Arena
First off, I’ve now heard and seen Elizabeth Fraser hit those notes at the peak of Teardrop. Second, I fell a little bit in love with Horace Andy, reggae legend, and possibly the only person on stage tonight who looked like he enjoyed himself. Fraser isn’t meant to, not if you sing Teardrop or Black Milk like you mean it. I expected a visual spectacle, there’s always been that element to Massive Attack’s whole pitch.
I’ve duly noted that they have worked with Adam Curtis before. I can sit through 3 hours of his mesmerising Hypernormalisation documentary and feel a bit numb. His film Bitter Lake had a similar effect, but as the backdrop to a couple of hours of spliced together video, knowing cynicism and Jenny Holzer stylised bursts of words the unsubtle attempts at messaging just left me infantilised, as did my teenage son, who assured me he won’t be donning a tinfoil hat in his student flat tonight.
I don’t love Massive Attack for their attitude or their charm, it’s possible even to forgive a lack of an encore, zero attempt to connect with the audience or the rigid set list. Possible even to pass over the £100 we paid (did I mention that?), because at times they were spectacular. That sound comes from here. Those bold cover versions of Velvet Underground, Cure and Ultravox, and that magical atmospheric grit they have crafted to painful precision.