A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to see Massive Attack for the second time, this time outdoors, at the fantastic Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. They seem to have truly crossed into legendary status now, and kept the crowd entirely enraptured for the duration of the show. The audience, seemingly ageing with the band, are now largely in their late thirties or early forties, but were still ready for an amazing show.
It really didn’t disappoint. After battling the equally legendary LA traffic (described by the duo as “craptastic” during the show) I managed to miss the support act Clark, which I was more disappointed about than I might normally have been, but was there and ready for the sound of Karmacoma when it opened the main show.
Special mention has to be made for the sound, which was exceptional in every sense – both the acoustics of the venue, and also the sound design of the show. And most of the bigger hits were included, although Protection was notable in its absence. The focus this time was on longer, darker, more exploratory tracks, which perhaps suggests the territory the rumoured forthcoming album might take us to.
Some pieces sounded considerably better than their studio versions – so much so, in fact, that in the case of Paradise Circus I found myself forced to completely reappraise my opinion. What previously had seemed a fairly bland track towards the end of a good but largely mysterious fifth album, has now become one of my favourites of their entire career. It’s strange the way music does that to you.
Later tracks saw real attention on the visuals, as Massive Attack wielded their political side with some subtle and not-so-subtle anti-war and counterculture commentary appearing on the screens in the form of tweets, dialogues, and general statements. Which would have been particularly handy if the music hadn’t been quite so good, but it wasn’t really necessary in this instance.
The songs played were an odd selection to say the least, with a total of just three selections from the first two albums Blue Lines and Protection, four from Mezzanine, one from 100th Window, three from the most recent album Heligoland, and a further three which have yet to appear on an album. In a sense that’s the sort of selection which is unlikely to make anybody really happy, but when the artist is as good as Massive Attack I suspect nobody really cares.
The setlist, thanks to setlist.fm:
- Battle Box 001 *
- United Snakes
- Paradise Circus
- Psyche (Flash Treatment)
- Future Proof
- 3D on Jupiter *
- Inertia Creeps
- Safe from Harm
- Splitting the Atom (encore)
- Pray for Rain (encore)
- Unfinished Sympathy (encore)
You can view an alternative review by someone who probably knows what they’re actually talking about here.
* I’ve corrected the titles here, as I suspect these are the actual ones, but please let me know if not…