For a band whose core members seem more comfortable chilling outside of the perimeters of the spotlights, Massive Attack’s current show is downright confrontational. Yes, the two producers behind all of the music, Neil Davidge and Robert Del Naja, did opt for anonymity during the show. Davidge did not perform and Del Naja mostly hid amidst all the mist onstage, but the messages projected on the giant metal LCD screen behind the musicians reminded those in attendance at the House of Blues on Thursday night how horrible the government was to Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, how horrible the AIDS crisis in Africa is, how horrible the drinking water situation is in third world countries, and how horrible we all are in general as people. It’s ironic that a band whose early trip-hop tunes likely served as the soundtrack to many bouts of escaping from reality for the audience members, would project a show so grounded in the harshest of realities. But the dark vibe suited the music, which spanned the group’s 22-year career, and mostly included material from this year’s “Heligoland.”
But the show was more than just a rave without all of that pesky fun creeping in. In between songs, the crowd even cheered for hopeful quotes from the likes of local luminaries such as Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky as well as Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. And after about a half an hour, revelers moved towards the back of the club to ignore the alarming global statistics and pay attention instead to the music.
And while the screen behind Massive Attack was the one doing said massive attacking, longtime guest vocalists like Martina Topley Bird, Horace Andy and Daddy G lent their wispy voices to the proceedings as if they were just another instrument onstage rather than a focal point. That is until Deborah Miller brought “Unfinished Sympathy” to heights almost as high as the greedy CEO bonuses projected earlier on the screen.