Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation
|Danielle Bacher/ OC Weekly|
November 7, 2010
Bristol, UK trip-hop stalwarts Massive Attack
joined D.C.-based dub/electronic collective Thievery Corporation
for an evening of downbeat musical exploration. The gig capped off the LA Weekly-
sponsored event LA 101, a celebration of live music, DJ'ing, food and local vendors. The freewheeling vibe brought out Angelenos from all walks of life.
top billed acts, however, attracted the hardcore music aficionados on
Sunday night. Thievery Corporation materialized on stage amid a pulsing
jam of sitar and deep bass, which led into set opener "Forgotten
People," from their most recent album Radio Retaliation. The
track is an Indian-influenced arrangement that shows off the group's
multinational aesthetic. Vocalist Sista Pat, wrapped in a flowing white
robe with body-length braids, shimmied and wound around her fellow
musicians while she belted out "Lebanese Blonde." Perhaps their most recognizable tune, it's a genre-straddling melange of piano, breakbeats, horns and Middle Eastern flavor.
on boys! Los Angeles, I want everybody up!" implored TC's male
toaster/rappers, before the crew launched into the title track from Radio Retaliation
This is perhaps the purest expression of their deep reggae influences: a
skanking, dubbed-out riddim made for island dance floors. Like Massive
Attack, Thievery Corporation have an abiding love for Jamaican music,
and this love informs everything they do artistically. On "Numbers
Game," however, a more modern British sensibility can be felt. In fact,
the song bears resemblance to "Fools Gold" by the Stone Roses
, in its funky, extended wah-wah guitar workout.
rumors of a special guest for their set proved to be true. Jane's
Addiction/Porno for Pyros frontman and Los Angeles native Perry Farrell
joined the group on stage for "Revolution Solution," their collaboration from 2005's The Cosmic Game.
contrast to the more spirited efforts thus far, this track was downbeat
and chillout room-ready. The muted tone continued as singer Lou Lou
took the mic for "Le Femme Parallel." The lyrics are entirely in French,
and her dulcet voice was a perfect match for the beautiful language.
Musically, it sounded almost like a funk-inspired Stereolab
the good vibes dominate the entire evening, the Corporation made a bold
political statement with their song "Vampires." A fist-pumping Latin
dance-infused called to arms, the group verbally calls out the machinery
of modern capitalism, specifically the International Monetary Fund (or
"International Monetary Motherfuckers"). Like all the best protest
music, you can dance to it. After this incendiary cut, the group
acknowledged one of their musical forbears with "The Heart Is a Lonely
Hunter," their studio collaboration with David Byrne. It has a jittery,
off-kitler funk vibe reminiscent of Fear of Music-era Talking
Heads. On top of that, the title of the song comes from Carson
McCullers' 1940 novel. Truly, this group has a global vision.
Attack, on the other hand, write paranoid fever dreams that rarely look
beyond four bedroom walls. A swirl of purple lights accompanied an
equally psychedelic stew of wind chimes, snare cracks and disembodied
whispers. Their first selection was off their new album Heligoland. "United Snakes" is a creepy epic, nearly 10 minutes long on the record, and it didn't lose an ounce of its power from the stage.
Long time Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird
joined them for their second track "Babel." The instrumentalists laid
down a thick bassline with skittering cymbals and hi-hats, while an LED
backdrop repeated a bunch of cryptic phrases. The ageless Horace Andy
fronted the band for a tense, claustrophobic take on "Future Proof." The
song is akin to Radiohead's
Android," both in sound and subject matter. For this piece, the
backdrop spouted interesting and outrageous tidbits about Rush Limbaugh,
Fox News, etc. They would revisit this motif throughout the concert.
Topley-Bird re-emerged for "Teardrop" (a.k.a "the House
theme song"). The instrumentalists pared down the already-minimalist
song to its essence, letting the delicate melody reverberate and
twinkle. The familiar ballad became even more haunting, as the names of
individuals killed by gun violence repeated far too often. During
"Mezzanine," a more problematic list appeared behind them: scores of
corporate logos like Microsoft, Monsanto and Virgin (the band's own
label). However, Comcast/NBC Universal and Live Nation were nowhere to
be found. Still, the song itself was a triumph.
Creeps" did just that, with tribal percussion thumping and its slow,
yet insistent crawl reminding all there just how phenomenal the entire Mezzanine
album is. A seriously bizarre hodgepodge of the names of recently dead
celebrities and Native American tribes provided an unsettling
counterpoint to the song's manic nature. The group reached even further
back into their catalog for the official set closer "Safe From Harm." A
gorgeous amalgam of R&B, dub and house music, it has only grown in
power the past 20 years. Martina Topley-Bird admirably echoed original
Massive Attack diva Shara Nelson, while the live instrumentalists and
DJ's fused into one organic whole.
It was a
good point at which to exit, before returning for their new encore track
"Atlas Air." Beginning with an organ intro that bizarrely reminds one
of Type O Negative's "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend," it slowly unfurls
into prototypical late-period Massive Attack: dense and disturbing, yet
immaculately recorded and intoxicating. It's the final song on Heligoland, and one of its clear highlights. While a Blue Lines
partisan may feel left cold by this type of material, the group's
musical progression reflects an increasingly complex and fucked up
world. On the bright side, though, the LED backdrop for this song simply
portrayed a ceaseless flight itinerary and map of the world. In the
end, it showed that there are positive aspects to the world getting
smaller, a concept that this collective explores better than almost
Personal Bias: I am a Blue Lines partisan.
Crowd: As diverse as it gets.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Pass that shit!" said a tall, bearded man to a bowl-sparking neighbor.
Random Notebook Dump: I had to restrain myself from screaming, "Play 'Unfinished Sympathy!'" Sadly, they did not.
Massive Attack Setlist:
"Girl I Love You"
"You Were Just Leaving"
"Splitting The Atom"
"Safe From Harm"