Posted by: martinworster | August 13, 2007


My AK47 goes boom boom.

The huge, er massive, influence of Massive Attack was evident in the sell out show at the 20,000 seat capacity Hollywood Bowl in the foothills of the Hollywood Hills. In my humble opinion Massive Attack are one of the most influential bands of the last 15 years. Period. Like other big acts, particularly Radiohead, they are instantly distinctive with a sound that sounds like no-one else. You can hear two bars of any of their songs and you know it’s Massive. Massive in your area.

I was interested to see how they translated in a live context. Massive Attack with their gloomy, dystopian dub infused soundscapes to me are more headphone fodder than stadium arena material. Plus, they also have so many guests – Tracy Thorne, Shara Nelson, Horace Andy, Elizabeth Frazer, Mos Def etc – that it would be interesting to see how they cope minus their vocal props as I couldn’t imagine them all flying in for the night.

As it turned out, Horace Andy showed up to offer his faltering reggae chats on the moving ‘The Big Wheel’ which provided a relief from some of the more angsty, heavy guitar sounds of their recent material. Elizabeth Frazer of the Cocteau Twins also lent her angelic vocals on songs like Teardrop. As an album ‘Blue Lines’ was and is a new soul classic, still as fresh today as it was on release in 1991 and saw Tricky, 3D, Mushroom, Daddy G et al starting with a a more soulful, reggae and hip hop sound. Don’t call it trip hop, despite this being the genre Massive Attack unwittingly and reluctantly invented. As we marched forward to the millennium Massive turned more gloomy losing Tricky, and gaining a tense and paranoid sound rising, or perhaps sinking, with ‘Mezzanine’.

On the night Robert Del Naja took to the stage to announce that Daddy G wouldn’t be appearing as he was on ‘paternity leave’. At first this was disappointing, like going to see Simon and Garfunkel, to find out Art had gone AWOL. 3 D seemed a bit meek, at first lacking a stage presence as he offered his trademark mumbling rap deliveries. Feeling the appreciation of the crowd, he soon warmed up. Giant LED boards behind the band beamed out messages on the war in Iraq. How many US dead since invasion. How many civilian deaths. How many billions of dollars spent. Other shocking and grueling figures flashed across the stage, largely ignored by the Hollywood crowd to whom a civil war started by America and the UK was millions of miles away.

The night finished with modern classic ‘Daydreaming’ after an encore. The sound at the Hollywood bowl was incredible as it reverbed around the natural ampitheatre, enveloped by warm dub bass and crystal clear accoustics, the timbres of individual percussion sounds each audible, just like you were wearing Sennheiser headphones.

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