Saturday 30th January 2016 at the 02 Academy Birmingham goes down in history as the night I finally saw Massive Attack live and boy I’ll never forget it. I have been following their music for 20 years since the age of 16 and repeatedly listened to the albums Blue Lines, Protection and Mezzanine during student life, even now. The late 90s saw a surge in Trip Hop coming out of Bristol and being lapped up by a wide range of people, different ages and backgrounds up and down the country. It’s just so incredibly accessible to those with a lust for deep, dark, stylish, sexy beats.
I recall the days me and my friend would sit in my candle-lit attic bedroom when I was a student in Leeds. She would roll up the joints, and we would smoke them to Mezzanine sitting in silence, then lying down, absorbing the sounds. They so carefully craft each track, choose the best guest vocalists, and take you into a world you are used to seeing on the big screen in a fantasy film or in your dreams. Dark alleys, slow motion, beads of sweat, the smoke rising from a cigarette…I am pretty sure many of us have listened to these seductive beats whilst making love, I have and will again.
What is absolutely mind blowing about the gig is the lighting design and how this complements the music, creating a superb ambience for the performance. The vibe in the building is electric. As ‘Angel’ kicks in I feel a lump in my throat as the lighting is almost as loud as the sounds, which together become one as a beating heart that pulsates through everyone in the audience. For those moments we are all connected. 3D and Daddy G are on the stage sharing their music I have listened to my entire adult life. I feel those years and memories flash in front of me like I have gone full circle, back in my home city again; its a poignant moment.
In recent years I have appreciated their political interests and efforts in highlighting global injustice alongside the development of my own. We need this from music. Music has and always should make room for politics and use this medium to campaign amongst the masses, to air views and needs of the underrepresented and oppressed. To be human. They use their current European tour to flag up many of these, focusing particularly on the refugee crisis and how we all need to stand up and take notice of this and act. Various statements and statistics are lit up during the concert, cleverly appearing and disappearing keeping our eyes busy. Their performance ends with a range of black and white stills of refugees, many of them close ups of children. Its humbling and chilling all at once.
This is why I love these boys, they bring us close to the essence of human existence; the pleasure and the pain, an orgasmic attack, beats that slow your pulse down or speed it up, turn off the lights and take you into the corners of your mind. Make you naked. That is Massive Attack.