Massive Attack @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl Melbourne, March 20, 2010. By Travis Parnaby.
British innovators Massive Attack brought their eclectic mix of dark, brooding beats and bleeps to life at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl last Saturday night.
The Bristol duo of Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall sounded fantastic backed by an eight-person strong live band and an epic light show.
Massive Attack has always operated outside the manual and tonight’s set list proves no exception – it is both pulsating and puzzling in equal measure.
The mixed bag of tracks from the band’s 20-plus year career was a rare treat for hardcore fans that no doubt had been in wait since Massive Attack last toured Australia in 2003.
New material from the band’s long-awaited fifth album Heligoland was given a major airing and despite being less known, was politely appreciated by a rather tame crowd. But for the less fanatic, the set was light on for hits – “Protection”, “Group Four”, “Black Milk” and “Live With Me” were sadly all missing in action.
B-side “United Snakes” and Heligoland’s “Babel” was an odd initial gambit and it was not until the more familiar, menacing drum beats of “Risingson” echoed out three songs in that the show found its feet.
But it quickly lost ground with a big investment in newer works. Solid but unremarkable album tracks “Girl I Love You” and “Pysche” from Heligoland followed and bizarrely, “Invade Me” - a song that didn’t even make the grade for Heligoland - featured.
Modern classic “Teardrop” arrived much earlier in the set than expected (the audience finally clued-up one verse in) and was pared back to allow Martina Topley-Bird’s vocal to soar with stunning effect. It was followed by the excellent title track and opener "Angel" to complete a terrific trifecta from Mezzanine.
It was back to 1991 for “Safe From Harm” from Blue Lines while “Inertia Creeps” was eerily brilliant.
Following a short sabbatical, the group returned with "Splitting the Atom" from the 2009 EP of the same name. Deborah Miller was warmly welcomed back for a blazing version of "Unfinished Sympathy" and the hill was finally awash with dancing shoes.
An extended version of the intense Heliogland closer “Atlas Air” and the ace “Karmacoma” concluded the night, but you could not help but feel a little short-changed by the $100-plus cover.