November 1, 2010
The Palladium Ballroom
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Roy Turner
Photos by Roy Turner
It was with great anticipation that I attended this show. Such a rare band that is completely original and the show itself extremely rare. Since the band's formation in 1991 they have visited Dallas exactly once, and that was four years ago and it was only as a pick-up date for their appearance at the Austin City Limits festival the next day. Even Massive Attack releases are rare as this year's Heligioland is their first in seven years.
Besides the two core members, Robert Del Naja, and Daddy G, they band's songs have a revolving door of different singers on almost every track, thus making it difficult to tour. Sure, I could have consulted the internet to find out who the other touring singers were, but I wanted to be surprised.
Massive Attack piece together an entire world of foul dreams, cold air and unsolved crimes. Del Naja sings with a distorted demonic whisper; Daddy G's mumbling voice is full of murderous revelation. Martina Topley-Bird had opened some shows for them this year and I had my fingers crossed as she emerges with a feathery black sash and a painted-on gray mask.
And you really can't have a MA show without reggae legend, Horace Andy, who sings the bulk of the key tracks off what is considered their best record, 1998's Mezzanine.
Each singer introduced by Del Naja, and then he turned the show over to them and each time, each one led you down a wondrous dark path. Losing themselves in the music, it even prompted Del Naja (who acts as master of ceremonies as well) to quip "We may be dark and introspective, but we are really up here, and we are glad that you are too".
A series of epileptic LED lights added political subtext, displaying a string of sobering statistics: the number of radio stations broadcasting Rush Limbaugh, the number of plastic bottles dumped each day in Mexico, the total cost of the drug war. If you were there, you now know that Cuba has a slightly better life expectancy rating than the United States.
You can see their traces in the DNA of everyone from the Gorillaz to the musicians of Low End Theory to the London post-dubstep parade. One of the greatest bands to emerge from the blurry nimbus between digital and analog, just masterful.
Girl I Love You
You Were Just Leaving (new unreleased song)
Splitting the Atom
Safe from Harm
Thievery Corporation opened the show with a deafening wall of sound. I mean just painful, and not to the band's ability or even awareness of the matter, meaning like it was so loud that it seemed like something was desperately wrong with the soundman. I mean this wasn't just loud, this was panic. I love this band and was looking forward to seeing them again, but whoever was running sound killed this flat. I even went out to smoke to get away from the assault and the bass was rattling the windows and metal trimmings that without exaggeration I thought they were gonna crack. I literally was tempted to try and alert someone that this was not going well and needed to be fixed.
1997's Sounds From the Thievery Hi-Fi established them as American trip-hop frontrunners, but they've since expanded into different terrain. Their most recent effort - 2008's Radio Retaliation - had a more political bent, gliding across Afro-Beat, and Brazilian lounge and New York house with cameos from Femi Kuti, Seu Jorge, and Louis Vega. It's a shame I couldn't have seen more if it.