It’s arguable that without Massive Attack, trip-hop as we came to know it would never have existed. Tricky got his start with the crew formerly known as the Wild Bunch, and the band’s hugely influential debut, Blue Lines, predated the first releases of both Tricky and Portishead. (All three acts notably hail from Bristol, England, the music’s clear birthplace.)
Nearly 20 years later, Massive Attack show no signs of slowing down, and if their two packed performances at NYC’s Terminal 5 are any indication, their fans are as supportive as ever. Martina Topley Bird, who has a dense resume of her own that dates all the way back to Tricky’s equally classic debut, Maxinquaye, both opened the shows with a solo set and performed with the band. (Topley Bird is featured on multiple songs on Massive Attack’s latest album, Heligoland.) She teased the release of her upcoming live album, recorded for Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon’s label, by playing entirely on her own for most of the set, assisted only by a loop pedal and minimal instrumentation.
Martina Topley Bird, Photo by vipgala
Neon Indian followed up next, representing their hometown while sandwiched between the Bristol compatriots. (Anti-Pop Consortium filled the same slot on Tuesday night.) The band is gaining significant moment since debuting just last year, and its synth-filled set provided the energy to show why.
Neon Indian, Photo by vipgala
Led by founding members Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall, Massive Attack’s show was the main attraction, though, and if there was any doubt beforehand, they weren’t going to let anyone question it. Backed by a sectioned LED screen, the group powered through material from throughout its two-decade career, while flashing a barrage of political commentary from the likes of Howard Zinn, Hunter S. Thompson, and Malcom X behind them.
A full five-piece band rocked the stage as Del Naja pulled the strings, and guest vocalists including Topley Bird, Deborah Miller, and reggae legend Horace Andy (who has appeared on every Massive Attack album to date) joined the crew to explore its catalogue, from favorites like “Teardrop” and “Karmacoma” to newer tracks like “Psyche.” Smoke filled the room, while lasers descended on the crowd, and many of the tracks were elevated to full-on sonic assaults by the gathered players (who included two drummers).
Massive Attack’s Robert del Naja, aka 3D, Photo by vipgala
At the end of it all, the multimedia messages that had flashed across the screen speaking out against corporate greed, political abuse, and war went dark, leaving behind a simple url: www.thepeoplespeak.com. It’s the website for the documentary about the recently deceased Mr. Zinn, and while Massive Attack’s music iteself has never been overtly political, they clearly want you to see it. After the performance they gave us, we’re more than happy to oblige.
Click through below for a gallery of more images from the show »