May 25, 2010
Massive Attack: Stickerpogy
Massive Attack may no longer be on the cutting edge of the eletronica/ trip hop music scene but they still know how to rock the house. It may seem a curious contradiction to claim that a trip-hop outfit “rocked” the house, especially when their most easily recognized song, “Teardrop,” (also the eerie theme song to the TV medical show “House”) sounds like an LSD-laced tantric-sex soundtrack. But, on Tuesday night at the Warfield in San Francisco, the MA weaved vaguely melodic snippets of music into wall-of-sound crescendos - kind of like an electronic version of a psychedelic jamband -that not only exposed much electronic music for what it really is (pointless computer noodling and looping) but was also great fun. In other words, Massive Attack knows how to do electronic music right.
However, there is a certain kind of pedantic quality to Massive Attack that was unfortunately revealed in the show staging. For much of the show, they forced the audience to wear their reading glasses, as nearly every song was accompanied by a Harper’s Index of Chomsky-esque bumper-stickerology sloganeering condemning the modern world (read: US imperialism) on the stage-long rows of LED lights behind the band. This came off as a bit self-righteous and left me rolling my eyes at times. Although the reception was good in San Francisco, one of the most liberal cities in the US, I can’t imagine that this show would be as well received in Arizona. (Good thing then that MA recently announced that they will boycott AZ) At times, the LED light production and the constant message flashes were used to good effect while other times it was overbearing and distracting.
The band had quite a lot of poise and stage presence and performed well and, on its own, the staging with the LED lights was also really well-done and effective. So, I am not certain why, even though the show was thoroughly enjoyable, part of me was a little disappointed that I had to read didactic messages for much of the night. I certainly didn’t leave feeling like I had wasted my time and money, but I also left feeling like the show could have been absolutely spectacular but was only great. Almost as if there were great, fresh ingredients and a brilliant recipe and instead of being blown away, I had a really nice meal. Maybe, that’s expecting too much.
The band was accompanied on stage by Martina Topley-Bird and reggae great, Jamaican Hoarce Mann. Both kept the show grounded as much as possible and it wouldn’t have been as good a night without them. Of course, seeing an electronica band in the electronic age, the YouTube already has plenty of clips of varying quality from the show. Check them out: here and here and here and here.