Mezzanine XX1 is Massive Attack’s reimagined ‘nostalgia nightmare headtrip’; 21 years after the albums release. Mezzanine is also an album that is as old as I am, and was exposed to while in utero. I’m not saying this show was made for me, however, this album is apart of my DNA.
The ‘nostalgia nightmare headtrip’, created by Del Naja, unfolded through excessive strobe and memories of the past 21 years (My entire lifetime) in the form of video collage. Providing reminders of Sadame Hussein, Princess Diana and Britney Spears breakdowns, then slowly unfolded into the reassurance that we are now Strong and Stable; this is the “progress” we’ve made in 21 years. There was also the not too long ago fear about technology rising up, and taking control during the infamous Y2K conspiracy. However, maybe if YK2 did happen, I’d be able to see Massive Attack live without seeing every cunt glued to their phone like the droning robots they’ve become…
Another crowd criticism is the typical gobby Manc patter that is unavoidable at every gig in Manchester. Granted the vocal levels felt a bit too quiet for 3-D and Daddy G’s whispered lyrics, however, hearing about the twat who’s book will never be published, or the prick that still mentions the Sex Pistols, or the clueless couple of cunts that were waiting for the ‘one everyone knows’ after the lights went out, really started to get on my passive aggressive tits.
Anyway, back to Massive Attack. In terms of vocal performance, everybody was on point (When you could hear them); Daddy G’s booming baritone on Risingson is a highlight no matter the performance. The addition of Horace Andy and Elizabeth Fraser also helped to stun silence into an ignorant crowd. Some of my lesser favourite tracks on the LP are the Fraser ones, but the soft, grimy atmosphere of Dissolved Girl and Black Milk were standout moments for me for night. Even though this show was heavily visual, you couldn’t help but close your eyes and get lost in the music. The gloomy atmosphere was also aided by being half-pissed on £5 a pint lager and slight sleep deprivation.
In terms of the whole set, everything was beautifully orchestrated from start to finish. Putting you in the minds of the artists and their influences. For example, opening the set with a cover of The Velvet Underground’s I Found a Reason and later in the night, Ultravox’s Rockwrok, which were sampled on tracks Risingson and Intertia Creeps respectively. Other covers that features were The Cure’s 10:15 on a Saturday Night, and Horace Andy performing a reworked version of his own, See a Man’s Face. This performance really showed the ingenious nature of trip hop, taking influence from everywhere possible and morphing it into something sickly, mysterious, and creepy.
I feel the atmosphere would’ve been more touching in a smaller venue, as I’ve not been to Manchester Arena in years, so the upped level of security did add a little stress to the night, along with unorganised queuing systems making you question the value of £45 ticket. However, overall, it was a solid performance, albeit with a lacklustre audience that didn’t quite anticipate what they were getting into. The show was a poetic critique on celebrity culture, politics and the rose-tinted memories of nostalgia. The concept made you realise just how bleak life can become in 21 years, even when distracted by good music and good art. This is the sound of a Brutalist society that’s forever changing and only we have the power to do something about it… Or do we?