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Massive Attack – Mezzanine XX1 – Brussels, Palais 12.

Mezzanine XX1 – Brussels, Palais 12.
January 31st, 2019

With just five studio albums across two decades and nothing since 2010’s Heligoland Massive Attack have always favoured quality over quantity. Tonight would be no different. No support band. No split set. No encores. Just Massive Attack doing what they do best, a dark, angst –ridden meld of funk, R&B, soul and dub reggae with discordant electronics and guitars.

Tonights’ Mezzanine anniversary sees the band reunited with Cocteau Twins Elizabeth Fraser who was an integral part of the bands most famous album particularly on ‘Teardrop’. Looking fantastic in monochrome, Fraser rolled back the years with yet another staggering vocal performance that once regularly saw her voted best female singer in the British music press. Let us hope that this tour kick starts Frasers public comeback having been largely inactive since the end of her own band. One of the all-time greats deserves to be heard. Terrific also to see the legendary Horace Andy add his velvet tonsils to tracks such as ‘Man Next Door’ and ‘Angel’ as well as his own ‘See A Mans Face’.

The Mezzanine XX1 Tour does what it says on the tin. No other album material is touched. (How I would have loved to hear ‘Girl I Love You’) The band flesh out the setlist with an eclectic selection of covers including Ultravox’ ‘Rockwrok’, The Velvet’s ‘I Found a Reason’ and a poignant ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’, Pete Seegers eulogy to non-returning war sons. Unsurprisingly for a band as politically active as Massive Attack tonight’s video backdrop was perfectly in line with the themes of the music. Social inequality, governmental control, alienation and apathy were all represented.

“I’m a little curious of you in crowded scenes”

Ironically for a band that works with some of the greatest guest singers imaginable it is to de facto ‘leader’ Robert, 3D, Del Naja that I’m most drawn. Del Naja fronts some of the best material with ‘Mezzanine’ and ‘Inertia Creeps’ standing out in an already quality set. I only wish I could have heard more vocal tonight. Del Naja was a bit buried at times but no ‘other flaws’ are to be reported. Dub basslines that flow through your entire body and the coolest beats imaginable provide ample compensation.

They closed with the mighty Group Four and there they left us with a wave. No audience interaction. Nor even ‘hello, ‘goodnight’ or ‘thank you’. Too cool for school, this lot. There was some disgruntlement around me as the lights abruptly came up. Entitled gig-goers want their encores don’t they! Personally I thought Group Four was the perfect way to end proceedings.

No new Banksy paintings were observed on the walk back home.

Photography by Carine Hubrechts.

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