Despite the fine mist that pervaded the air at this Vancouver outdoor venue, the kids and the weirdos danced in bass-heavy reverie at the show. Pounded by low-end frequencies, dazzled by bizarre show outfits and the smell of summer rain mingled with the aroma of thick mud, Massive Attack delivered a stunning performance that was both blisteringly loud and dark as hell.
Hailing from the UK, the sonic collective merges the boundaries of dance, trance and ethereality, and couples this with some serious vocal talents. Not to mention, founding member Robert Del Naja’s (a.k.a. 3D) is chock-full of boyish Bristol charm that is often juxtaposed by his unsettling, yet seductive whispers. The band’s history may be riddled by tantrums, personal clashes and artistic differences from days of Mezzanine, but at the show, the stage seemed pretty relaxed and focused.
Singer Martina Topley-Bird came out initially wearing a white wool poncho and a bright pink chiffon skirt, bringing the image of a bizarrely-decorated Bjork, but with more vocal resonance. Other core band member Daddy G looked pretty comatose on stage, but from what’s been written about him, his behavior just typified his brooding style. The group baited the crowd with some classics, from the dark ambience of “Intertia Creeps” to the now-appropriated House theme song, “Teardrop.”
Topley-Bird came back on stage later in the show, morphed into a sex goddess wearing something of a Catwoman suit, complete with skin-tight leather pants. A couple of memorable points in the show was when the band launched into an hypnotic performance of “Psyche” from their latest offering, Heligoland, followed closely by a powerful, ear-drum piercing delivery of “Girl I Love You,” one of the most aggressive tunes on the album. But the best part was when roots-reggae legend Horace Andy killed it with “Angel,” a trip-hop classic with Andy’s trademark vibrato. From this position it’s very safe to say that Massive Attack’s groove-heavy neo-psychedelia is only getting better with age.
Seeing the Arctic Monkeys is like an experiment in trying to understand the classic nonchalance of the British. Is it a cool kind of aloofness, or are they knowingly being arses?
Coinciding with a beautiful sunset in Stanley Park, the alternative-post-punk quintet came out and started with a slow song. The group’s aesthetic is always a surprising thing, based on opposites. Frontman Alex Turner washed his hair but wore black leather, while lead guitarist Jamie Cook wore a mean plaid shirt that made him look like any other Vancouver hipster.
Despite being a rock band, the show employed an alarming amount of strobe light, which added extra rigour to some of their more popular, catchy tunes like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Crying Lightning.” They also played “Sketchead,” a bonus track from their latest album Humbug, which Turner admitted to the crowd in his charmismatic Sheffield accent had only been played a couple of times before.
When it came to actual stage presence, AM impressed upon the audience the stereotype of the stiff British upper lip. Albeit the tunes were aggressive, raw — the energy was lacking as the quartet occasionally threw their hair around half-heartedly, lethargically — like they didn’t need any more friends. Or were bored with the ones they already had.
The tail end of the summer offered little promise as I was spending all of my time in front of the computer, but getting very little done. It had something to do with True Blood, Rod Serling from the Twilight Zone (original), Mad Men and Big Love. I’m not ashamed anymore.
On September 20th, I’ll be covering the Arctic Monkeys show at the Malkin Bowl in beautiful Stanley Park. A tidy review should quickly ensue.
Friday October 2nd will see us some beautiful (and rather bizarre) images of our good friend Deadmau5, an award-nominated DJ currently enjoying fame on the radio waves with his song “Move for Me” which was made in collaboration with Kaskade, another premium spin doktor. Can you say big mouse outfit?
Polaris prize-nominee Chad Vangaalen is gracing the Biltmore Cabaret on October 2, and I promise to capture the haunting expression he’ll have when he sings “Molten Light,” god willing he will play that eerie tune.
I’m also working on getting some face time with Matthew Good, so I’ll keep you posted on any developments that way. He’s playing at the ritzy Centre for Performing Arts, with opening band Mother Mother, who you should all know and love by now…
the personal blog of Miné Salkin, multimedia journalist