September 27, 2019

Massive Attack played Radio City Music Hall

After being forced to reschedule tour dates earlier in the year, Massive Attack finally made it to Radio City to bring their classic album Mezzanine to life.

Taking the stage an hour behind the time the venue explicitly stated would be a "prompt start," the legendary trip-hop group revealed themselves as the gold curtain of Radio City rose to find the band with an elaborate stage set-up composed of blinding strobe lights and politically charged videos. In a cool twist, the band did play all of Mezzanine in full (one of my favorite records of the 1990s), albeit in a random order. To make things different and against the grain of everyone else playing their classics from front-to-back, Massive Attack rearranged their own tracklist and played covers of songs they sampled on the album as segues between each track. It was also the first show I can remember going to where the band had no music available for purchase, something else that felt a bit odd for a show celebrating an actual album. The house music before the show included hits Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time...," Brandy and Monica's "The Boy is Mine,", Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping," Madonna's "Frozen", Savage Garden's "Truly Madly Deeply," Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," and Cher's "Life After Love." At first it seemed strange until I was able to put together that it was all music from the same year as Mezzanine's release. Still, with that all being said, the band did perform a high caliber show with incredible sound and unique works of their songs that made for a wonderful night. Immediately opening the show with a cover of the Velvet Underground's "I Found a Reason" was stunning, unexpected beauty and really helped to set the mood for the night. Visually, it was a mesmerizing night as lights appeared through screens and heavy smoke to give off very industrial vibes (fitting of some of their covers) and radical videos of highly political content added even more textures to the band's lush sound. Images of corrupt politicians morphing together, footage of toy assembly lines, corporate logos, as well as scenes from Hollywood films all comprised the various background stimulations the band soundtracked while mostly covered in darkness. Backlit and hardly distinguishable, the band kept their mysterious presence in full effect and let the music speak for itself as they didn't utter a single word to the crowd during the entire show. Once it was established that songs would be played in a random order all night, it did put a little more fun back in the elements of the show and helped digress from the rut of seeing so many albums played in their entirety. Adding to the already impressive sound, the live instrumentations featuring two drummers/percussionists, a stand-up bass, guitars, and synths, the group invited Horace Andy and Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins(!) to join them on tour to recreate the original vocals they provided on the album. "Angel," "Dissolved Girl," "Risington," and "Exchange" were thundering, really kicking up the volume and intensity from the recording and personify their name through their music. Feeling the bass at Radio City pound with such intensity and force was special. The penultimate original "Teardrop" was astounding, Fraser's vocals quivering ever so slighting as twirling lights ebbed and flowed with the rhythm of the song bringing a new moment to the show and one of the most memorable I've experienced at the iconic venue. Like they've done throughout their career, Massive Attack continue to change up the game and repeatedly reinvent classics.

Set list:

01 "I Found a Reason" [The Velvet Underground cover]
02 "Risingson"
03 "10:15 Saturday Night" [The Cure cover]
04 "Man Next Door" (with Horace Andy)
05 "Black Milk" (with Elizabeth Fraser)
06 "Mezzanine"
07 "Bela Lugosi's Dead" [Bauhaus cover]
08 "Exchange" (with Horace Andy)
09 "See a Man's Face"
10 "Dissolved Girl"
11 "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" [Pete Seeger cover]
12 "Inertia Creeps"
13 "Rockwrok" [Ultravox cover]
14 "Angel"
15 "Teardrop" (with Elizabeth Fraser)
16 "Levels" [Avicii cover]
17 "Group Four"

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