Massive Attack’s second night at a packed O2 Academy saw them debut new tracks from the forthcoming EP ‘Ritual Spirit’, including Voodoo in My Blood, a collaboration with openers Young Fathers. The Scottish trio’s murky yet relentlessly energetic warm up set was the perfect counterpoint to Massive Attack’s thunderous set.
With almost three decades of material to choose from, Massive Attack could afford to leave out a few of the hits. ‘Teardrop’ was a huge crowd-pleaser in the middle of the show, but it stood out in a set full of the band’s more, rollicking, gut-wrenchingly, drum and bass-heavy numbers, offset by Martina Topley-Bird’s impeccably eerie vocals.
The band’s impact was heightened by the remarkable visuals, a collaboration with United Visual Arts, a London-based collective, as well as war photographer Giles Duley. The dazzling backdrop flashed up flags, political slogans, and a number of horrifying statistics about the refugee crisis and war in Syria, particularly highlighting Britain’s brutal apathy. The genuinely sobering, hard-hitting political material was juxtaposed with more random or mundane headlines, words and figures (‘Man Utd booed off as Saints score late winner’), lending an almost surreal tone.
Duley’s bleak, honest photographs of the Syrian War deliver a powerful message throughout the set. At its sobering conclusion we are left with a token message of hope before the encore, for equality, for a better world, but at the end of a pulsating, exhilarating yet doom-laden set, it is hard to believe.
For another band, the visuals might have seemed out of step, but Massive Attack are still determined to innovate. Their new album will be partially encoded in an iphone app that the band’s Robert Del Naja has also been developing, called Fantom – it will measure the listener’s heart-rate, mood and surroundings, and adjust the rhythms and cadences of the 4 tracks accordingly – a “sensory music player”.
Massive Attack want to change the way we listen experience music, and this gig suggests 2016 will be a huge year for them.