Today’s Pop is Paul. We love him beyond words (plus, secretly, we just want him to forgive us for our recent impudent ways – will he? We reckon so…).
Massive Attack just finished three nights at the Brixton Academy yesterday. Needless to say, they were sold out months before. Unlike the Rolling Stones, who just keep going and going – or any of the 80s bands that have suddenly realised that, with CD sales in sharp decline, a reunion tour could be lucrative – a Massive Attack tour is a rare thing. If they were a specialised commodity that occasionally comes to market, their stock value would shoot through the roof each time they elect to perform.
Perhaps the band got a taste for it after curating last year’s Meltdown festival in London. Prior to that, their reluctance to tour was a well-documented fact. But, with an imminent EP and album in February, a series of autumn gigs is well timed.
The band has worked with UnitedVisualArtists [http://www.uva.co.uk] on their light shows for several years now. If you live in London, you may have seen their public installations at the Southbank last summer, or in the Victoria & Albert’s John Madejski Garden during early Spring 2006. Both involved a garden of reactive LED columns that ‘played’ with each individual as they moved closer. So that it was less about static observation, more about engaged interaction. Check out their vid to get an idea: http://www.uva.co.uk/archives/49.
Behind the band, a broad lighting rig operates as another component to the show. UVA have taken the ‘son et lumière’ concept that the French employ to such effect with their historic buildings and mix this in with chiaroscuro mood lighting that perfectly supports the agitated paranoia that defines so much of Massive Attack’s later music. To contemporise all this, they flash up polemic messages, ironic tabloid headlines and philosophical quotes on the nature of freedom. These range from de Tocqueville and Mandela to Burmese political dissident, Aunt San Suu Kyi. Extra kudos for including the latter.
The lightshow is as powerful as the speaker stack, and Massive Attack are not shy when it comes to cranking up the volume. UVA are smart enough not to dominate the spectacle – just – and there are times when the lighting spectacle is so trippy, it resembles a welcome narcosis. Yes, a karma coma.
I was with Jez Tozer [www.jeztozer.com], Nick Knight’s ex-assistant and, like me; the sights before us were wildly provoking his taste buds.
But, it wasn’t all bright white light, cobalt blues and ruby reds. UVA practice restraint too. They underscored a resounding vulnerability in the warmer songs, and allowed nothing more than ultraviolet lamps to pick up singer Horace Andy’s rasta-ribboned hat out of the darkness. And, when it was time for “Unfinished Sympathy”, the colour scheme switched to softer amber. The effect on such a powerful anthem was similar to the maestro of cinematography, Vittorio Storaro’s thesis on colour, psychology and perceptions. See any of his films for Bernardo Bertolucci and Francis Ford Coppola for examples.
There were plenty of new songs to preview. Damon Albarn guested on the first night, and 3D seemed well animated on stage. Daddy G was the stoic rock anchoring the lyrics and Horace Andy skanked along to the riddims. It was UVA that packaged all these disparate elements into a memorable experience
- POP 385 Weekend 4-5 September 2010
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- POP 1006 Monday 24 September