It is a statement that many of us think, but few of us actually blurt out whilst stuck behind 5,000 iPhones. In no way am I gatekeeping Massive Attack, but when the crowd have mostly been stationary for the bulk of the first night of the Mezzanine anniversary tour, it is easy to see the frustration of life-long fans.
What is particularly warming about Massive Attack and this crowd in particular, though, is the ‘togetherness’ they bring to each and every city they grace with their presence. Upon walking into the Hydro there are punks, goths, ravers, business-types and 14-year-olds at their first gig all congregating on the concourse. There are those who will attend 100 other gigs this year, but likewise there are those who will be watching Del Naja and co. from a corporate box and no one else in 2019. No one cares. Everyone is harmonious. There are no parties there tonight looking for anything other than reliving one of the greatest albums to ever be released.
Before the band walk on stage (almost half-an-hour after the venue’s PA say the show will start in ten minutes) there are jokes amongst those in general admission that “we went to see them in Madrid and they pulled out last minute,” but as each minute after 8:30 passes, the joke turns to concern because as is always the case, Massive Attack are as unpredictable as Northern Rail. The lights remain down and Robert Del Naja and Daddy G are revealed to the packed out crowd.
With a unique blend of trip-hop, ambience and dance, the Bristol outfit brought Mezzanine back to life after 21 years. In typical Massive Attack fashion there are no “Hello Glasgow” introductions. There are no “we are Massive Attack” statements. There are no “Thank you and good night” pleasantries. There isn’t even an acknowledgement or nod to Elizabeth Fraser or Horace Andy for helping them resurrect the LP. Did we expect it? Absolutely not.
Interestingly there are a few covers thrown into the set – The Cure‘s 10:15 Saturday Night and The Velvet Underground‘s I Found a Reason – but no Massive Attack tracks from albums away from Mezzanine. Where other bands would provide an encore consisting of ‘other album classics,’ here in Glasgow we are given the bare minimum. However, what is lacking in venturing to other projects, they make up for in visuals. Beaming phrases such as “a time for greatness” and “the right comes from the people” in between archive footage showing everything from Britney Spears losing a memory-card for her camera to Iraq president Saddam Hussein being paraded through a child ‘guard of honour.’
Created by filmmaker Adam Curtis, what was being shown on screen should have come with a pre-warning. Footage of soldiers, the demise of cities via war to name two; it was hard hitting, but Massive Attack have never shied away from the controversial. Curtis explained prior to the tour that “the show tells the story of the strange journey we have all been on over the past 20 years since Mezzanine was released: How we have moved into a strange backward-looking world, enclosed by machines that read our data and predict our every move, haunted by ghosts from the past.”
Even with Curtis’ explanation there is a sense of mystery. Much like the age old mystery of whether Del Naja is Banksy, for example. What isn’t a mystery, though, is that Mezzanine had the longevity to still be relevant 21 years on. Black Milk still has an enchanting aurora surrounding it, Man Next Door sounds as soulful as it did in 1998 and both Massive Attack and Elizabeth Fraser can still end the night spectacularly with an impressive rendition of Group Four.
There isn’t really much else to say about Massive Attack. If you are a fan, you will be desperate to hear Mezzanine live and be prepared to feed Del Naja‘s ego for an hour and a half. If you aren’t a fan, there’s a high chance you’re familiar with at least some of their work and if you’re offered a ticket you should catch such an iconic outfit in the flesh. Just don’t expect the band to be overly thankful or make you feel that they appreciate the forty quid you’ve gave them for the ticket and the further thirty quid you’ve paid for a run-of-the-mill tour shirt.