Massive Attack – Visually and politically charged

Having just released their first new material in 6 years, Tuesday night saw the return of 90s trip hop stalwarts Massive Attack to the Rockhal.

With their new EP “Ritual Spirit” out last month, Massive Attack are back collaborating with fellow Bristolian & trip hop artist Tricky for the first time since 1994, as well as Roots Manuva, Azekel and last night’s support act Young Fathers.

The genre defying Young Fathers who won the prestigious Mercury Music prize back in 2014 haven’t rested on their laurels or decided to chase a newfound audience. The Edinburgh trio have continued down the path of experimental and socially aware music. This strategy might not see them find fame and fortune but when they deliver with the verve as they did last night you can be sure they get people talking.

Their erratic and abrasive style might come as a bit unsettling to some, as there is no flow to their set but it’s this approach that sets them apart. Each one of the trio oozes their very own style and delivery whilst still functioning as one intense, honest and cohesive unit.

The stripped back and raw set up of Young Fathers is of some contrast to the plethora of activity on stage for Massive Attack. Gone are the days of a couple of turntables and a mic. It’s now two drum kits, synths, keyboards, bass, guitar and what else they could fit on stage. All of that in front of huge blindingly bright screens, creating the visual backdrop for the evening.

The early shifting between upbeat electro to the more meandering downbeat trip hop made for a slight uneasy flow to proceedings. Even to the extent you found yourself tuning out of the music and focusing on visuals which in themselves were not spectacular just poignant messages and facts about the recent refugee crisis scrolling across the back of the stage.

The title track off the new EP “Ritual Spirit” got an outing with the dulcet falsetto tones of Azekel taking on vocal duties. Over their years they have had a rich host of guest vocalists and last night Martina Topley-Bird took on the majority of the set, most notably the ever-sensual “Teardrop” followed straight after by the hauntingly dark and creepy intro to “Angel”.

For the encore Young Fathers were back on stage to unveil their collaborative effort with Massive Attack, with the expansive and ominous “Voodoo In My Blood”.

Then whilst the band cleared the stage for another encore the screens were filled with more harrowing statistics and visuals of refugees huddled on overcrowded boats. The images so bright they burned into your retinas for a moment leaving you to think and picture the horror that bit longer. All this before an appeal to donate to UNHCR , all very moving and poignant.

So much so it seemed a bit odd when they returned to the stage for the epic and grand “Unfinished Sympathy” after such strong imagery, it seemed a slight juxtaposition.

09/02/16 – Rockhal

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