Massive Attack and Tom Petty, two generations live

Posted: September 27th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Ambient, Breakbeat, Events | No Comments »

Massive Attack 2

Massive Attack and Liz Fraser’s angelic music fills the Hollywood Bowl. Photo by Electrohound.

Massive Attack performed at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl this past Sunday to a crowd of fans and hipsters of all stripes. Only one of the original three members from the trip-hop innovators was present, 3D (Robert Del Naja). But a supporting cast, including reggae vocalist Horace Andy and chanteuse Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins fame, warmed the cool air. The sound was expertly mixed as a live guitarist, keyboardist, and two drummers puounded, pulled and pushed Massive Attack’s heavily programmed music into a liquid, thunderous ball of lightening.

Classics like “Safe From Harm,” “Risingson,” and “Hymn of the Big Wheel” filled the bowl with soulful singing, whisping threads of melody and climbing electric guitar textures. The most exquisite moments belonged to “Teardrop” and “Unfinished Symphony.” The former worked around the song’s distinctive, honey-dripping bass notes, slightly delayed for awesome, dramatic effect. The latter breathed perfectly in the outdoor setting, lifting the audience up with its earnest lyrics and delirious rhythms. In this heady mixture of organic and electronic sounds, Massive Attack delivered its music and message from an enlightened core. “Safe From Harm” accompanied sobering statistics about the Iraq War flashed in red letters across lighting grids. Without killing the mood, it reminded old fans of Massive Attack’s common theme of protecting the vulnerable. All in all, it was a bloody professional showing from a band past its prime but sitting on top of one the best song catalogs of the last 20 years.

Jut two nights later Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played in the same place to an entirely different audience. The old Southern rocker jammed through most of his classics, keeping the joys high with many standouts from his landmark Full Moon Fever album. When he introduced Stevie Nicks as his special guest, the crowd went wild. Having grown up during the early years of MTV, I couldn’t help but be deeply impacted by Petty. And while his live rendition of “Don’t Come Around Here No More” — a classic ’80s song with an unforgettably creepy video — reminded me slightly of Disneyland’s Electric Light Parade theme, it was still the highlight of my week.

Standing in the same amphitheater that Massive Attack rocked just 48 hours earlier, it was easy to observe just how different the two generations were. One relied on the iconic personality of an enlightened Southern rebel, maybe the last true rock and roller of our time, the other on the tasteful fusion of global grooves and island soul by three English blokes steeped in the electronic revolution.

Even though the outward effects were worlds apart, there was a deeper connection. Both drew on the clash of musical traditions from Africa, the Americas and Europe. And both reached through them for enlightened ecstasy and peace.

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