Well, this whole experience of seeing Massive Attack in the legendary Brixton Academy and being able to shoot it is just one of the coolest things I've done on this space. Can you blame me for glowing?
This is the third time around with Massive Attack for me , after their long awaited U.S. return to Philly and NYC in 2006. The 2009 tour and this third night at Brixton is a different experience than the last tour. There's a different lighting setup and new material from their new EP, Splitting The Atom, and upcoming fifth album. When I think of the band in live form, I think of the extraordinary experience of seeing a freaky light show melded with their groundbreaking sound.
As I learned that night, Damon Albarn made an appearance the night before. Drats. Oh well, night three still blew my mind. I was seeing light spots for an hour after the show.
- Bulletproof Love
- Hartcliffe Star
- 16 Seeter
- Red Light
- Future Proof
- Safe From Harm
- Inertia Creeps
- Encore: Splitting The Atom
- Unfinished Sympathy
- 2nd Encore: Karmacoma
It's been three weeks since the show, so it's hard to form an opinion on the new material that's not on the EP. I do remembering that whatever shows up on the new album, it will be a step up from the minimalistic 100th Window. A song like "Splitting the Atom" has a nice deep pulse with Daddy G and Horace Andy trading vocals. "Babel" featured opening Martin Topley-Bird, and it was very much in their vein of their earlier work on Mezzanine and Protection. It's sexy, smooth with plenty of electronic flourishes.
The live show was worth revisiting after three years. Although, Daft Punk's show pretty much sets the gold standard, Massive Attack at least has actual humans and instruments to go along with their stage set-up. This show has a backdrop right out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with a LCD rectangle display spanning the display. The contraption could open and close like a Venetian blind to allow for flood lights to shine from behind. Those lights then moved around like tiny space ships. It's a total immersive experience. The music puts you in a transcendent mindset then you look at the stage and see all the light pyrotechnics. You can loose yourself in that as well.
One of the aspects carried over from the previous tour was the random display of famous quotes, current headlines and stock ticker for Safe From Harm. Then for Inertia Creeps, the screens lit up in a chaos of striking news footage. It's one of those things you have to see for yourself. I think these shows would make an awesome live DVD *hint, hint*. I just wish more Americans would be able to see how awesome the show is.
Being a big Massive Attack fan in the U.S. can be tough. One, Robert Del Naja doesn't travel to U.S. often. Either it's because of cost or politics, but every time I see their tour dates, it's disconcerting to see they are playing Estonia and not New York City. Then, the band (which is essentially Del Naja) have been around for almost two decades and their output is minimal. This yet-to-be finished/in flux album will be the first since 2003. It seems it's been worked on for 3-4 years. We do know Damon, Martina, Horace along with Elbow's Guy Garvey and Hope Sandoval will be on it. Whatever the outcome, the Massive Attack sound launched the whole trip-hop movement and still to this day, is one of the most influential sounds in dance/electronic music.
Back to the live show, As Del Naja pointed out, this was the band's 13th overall appearance at Brixton, beating out The Clash who played 11 times. I've been itching to get back to there since I saw Razorlight/Duke Spirit in 2004. Since then, the ownership has changed to O2 and the joint went through a much needed refurbishing. The lobby looks spiffy and outside made more lively. The whole Brixton area has became a little less dodgy as well. I remember in my first visit being harassed to and from the tube station by all sorts of miscreants. Then people would throw lit cigarettes from windows onto the crowd. All that is gone.
If you ever visit London, I would strongly encourage seeing a show there. The room itself is immense and the balcony area has some interesting decor and the like. Like the Hammersmith Apollo, the floor slopes down which is great for sight lines, but sucks on your feet. More importantly, there's this great warning posting on both sides of the stage. No throwing your hands in there air, and waving them like you just don't care..
Now for these photos, it was a tremendous privilege to shoot the show, and the only one to boot as well. I know I'm not a professional and my skills are limited, but these turned out great. I go to shows to see the show and not take pictures, but this was great fun to do.