Massive Attack new tour more deconstruction than celebration

Massive Attack, 3Arena, Dublin

Ed Power was rather underwhelmed by Massive Attack's Mezzanine performance at 3Arena in Dublin.

As pop’s perpetual awkward outsiders, it was out of character for Massive Attack to acknowledge the 21st anniversary of their 1998 masterpiece Mezzanine.

But rather than follow the now hackneyed convention of playing a beloved album all the way through, the trip-hop icons’ new tour was more deconstruction than celebration.

Alas, even as they tore Mezzanine down it was unclear what Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall were trying to construct in its place.

Mezzanine’s more obscure inspirations were acknowledged, with covers of goth preeners Bauhaus and synth-pop also-rans Ultravox while Horace Andy, the band’s long-running guest-vocalist, reprised his 1969 solo number See A Man’s Face.

The Mezzanine tracks were scattered through the set and not played in their original sequence. Sometimes the impact was astonishing, as on a foundation-quaking Inertia Creeps.

Yet the toll of having performed these songs endlessly over the past two decades showed too, as on the plodding Risingson (occasionally muddy vocals didn’t help).

An even bigger problem were the hackneyed background visuals courtesy of leftwing documentarian Adam Curtis. Donald Trump and Brexit were presented as harbingers of the apocalypse which, if not inaccurate, was hardly devastatingly insightful.

This was a case of playing to the gallery and also condescendingly patting the gallery on the head.

Meanwhile, images of dead bodies from Iraq, presumably meant to shock, felt cheaply provocative.

Massive Attack were on the road with what was essentially a nostalgia show and should have had the grace to acknowledge the fact rather than dress it up as an avant-grade venting of demons.

There was redemption in guest vocalist Elizabeth Fraser, singing Mezzanine’s big hit, Teardrop.

Framed by nothing but still lighting, the performance mirrored the Teardrop video in which an unborn child seemingly twitches in a dream.

There was a sense of returning somewhere womblike and hauntingly protean as Fraser sang in the darkness.

So much else about the evening was laboured and, in the case of Curtis’s virtue signalling, actively trite.

However, Teardrop was exquisite as Massive Attack finally lowered their guard and permitted themselves share in the wistfulness washing around the room.

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