Chicago Theatre
Wednesday September 11 2019

Massive Attack and “Mezzanine” over twenty years on, and Robert del Naja and Grant Marshall toured North America to showcase their third release “Mezzanine”, reconfigured for live performance in a fantastic display of beauty and might, and awash in technical and video sophistication.
Yes- the music is intact, the running order of songs from their most successful album on point.
But this show to present “Mezzanine” is much much more- it’s something completely new and fresh, Robert working again with filmmaker Adam Curtis, presenting Mezzanine in such a way that makes it a spectacular audio- visual experience like none other.
Even in the intimate and lovely Chicago Theatre, this show from Massive Attack is something to behold, with the visuals in such sophistication and gracefully and sometimes jarringly moving along elegantly to the beats of the music.
Let’s cut to the chase right now: Massive Attack have put on the best show of the year- October, November, December of 2019 be damned.
I don’t know how any other artist is going to top this production.
Here I am, 4 or so weeks after the show came through town, and I’m reliving it like it was yesterday.
A virtual who’s who of Chicago’s music scene was in attendance for this event, and from my vantage point, I lost count of how many of my close and personal friends were in the audience.
The pictures of this show that I’ve posted- things are a little bit different than my typical front to back / show the band and the whole stage routine.
Well look who’s contributing to the production of Mezzanine: Liz Fraser and also Horace Andy, who are integral to the scope of the running order in Mezzanine.
So that’s why there’s tons of closeup shots of the two of them, Horace Andy singing “Man Next Door”, all so cool and suave, swaying from side to side, and towards the songs completion, over a heavy breakbeat, he scuttles off stage left, shifting about to the endless rhythm until he disappears.
Then of course the chanteuse Elizabeth Fraser, who’s angelic and gentle voice hasn’t diminished a bit over all these years, and the audience in rapturous applause when she first appears onstage to sing “Black Milk”, one of four songs she’ll perform this evening, and the most popular of course being “Teardrop”.
“Teardrop”? Simply a stunner, both in vocal with Liz, and also stark and graphic lighting jutting out from the floor directly behind Liz, and jutting up towards the ceiling at the audience.
A photographer’s dream to capture this and capture this correctly.
This, more than anything, is why there’s plenty of closeup shots of this part of the show with Massive Attack, and interspersed with lots of black and white images as well.
As for the LED backdrop projections, they addressed topics relevant to this day, not just when Mezzanine was released in ’98.
With a lot of visuals in the here and now, and ever so 2019, addressing power and technology along with the nutbags in power, Trump, Putin, the idiot Boris Johnson- Prime Minister of England, making Massive Attack’s music from Mezzanine all the more claustrophobic and meaningful for this day and age.
So now you should get the drift: Robert del Naja has rethought the meaning of Mezzanine, and presented it in such a way that it’s not all nostalgic.
Like the giant backdrop LED’s say in a pertinent message, with Horace Andy front and center: “Stronger and Better Off”.
Mezzanine: something new, something fresh, something to complete the cycle.
The show, interspersed with some hefty covers to provoke and acknowledge, from the Velvet Underground to the Cure to Bauhaus to Pete Seeger and also Ultravox- all tied into the concept of Mezzanine, and where Robert and Grant’s heads were at when making this groundbreaking album.
It’s a blessing to us as audience members and also as music hounds that Robert del Naja has embraced his fascination with technology for this production of Mezzanine, and that the tracks for this tour were programmed into a neural net that remixes the music front and center, with a sophisticated PA that doesn’t break and tweak when confronted with the inevitable onslaught of heavy beats, ever making sure to keep Mezzanine and Massive Attack into the present.
This show- transcends.
I sure hope the pictures I present here show proof of this.
I want more Massive Attack in the future- not less.
Cheers – Bobby Talamine – Music Photographer


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