Archive for the ‘Massive Attack’ Category

Massive Attack v Adam Curtis Manchester International Festival 7 July 2013

Massive Attack v Adam Curtis Manchester International Festival 7 July 2013
massive attack This was a very different sort of performance. Adam Curtis is a film and documentary maker, whose work explores politics and philosophy. For this event, commissioned by the Manchester International Festival, he has worked with Bristol trip hop legends Massive Attack to produce an experience which explores power and politics and their impact on all of us. Adam calls the performance “a Gilm” – “a new way of integrating a gig with a film that has a powerful overall narrative and emotional individual stories. The show will be a bit of a total experience. You will be surrounded by all kinds of images and sounds. But it is also about ideas. It tells a story about how a new system of power has risen up in the modern world to manage and control us. A rigid and static system that has found in those images and sounds a way of enveloping us in a thin two-dimensional version of the past.” David came up from London especially for the event, and we drove down from home via Leeds, where we picked up Laura who had been attending a friend’s birthday barbecue celebrations. The venue for the event was the Mayfield Depot, Manchester, which is a disused and somewhat spooky old building, right next to Piccadilly station. We arrived at the venue at 8.15pm and waited in anticipation for the start which came at 9pm prompt, at which time, we were all directed along with 1,500 others into a dark space completely surrounded by giant screens on three sides. The screens then showed Curtis’ new documentary Everything Is Going According to Plan, while Massive Attack played at the end of the room, from behind a translucent screen. The film took us through a story of how politics, the advent of computers and the proliferation of data, war and the financial crisis have all set out to control and plan our destiny and how ultimately “The Plan” has failed. This was achieved through a mash-up of news images and some quite bizarre selections of scenes from Bambi, Mary Poppins, and Jane Fonda’s work-out video (? :)). Massive Attack’s soundtrack ranged from their own doomy, deep bass-laden soundscapes which rocked and vibrated the very foundations of the space, to a series of quite off-the-wall covers performed by guest vocalists and long-time collaborators Elizabeth Frazer (formerly of the Cocteau Twins) and reggae singer Horace Andy. These covers included Nirvana’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night, Burt Bacharach’s The Look of Love and Baby Its You, The Archie’s Sugar Sugar and Barbra Streisand’s My Colouring Book. The highlight for me was Elisabeth Frazer’s performances of The Look of Love, and My Colouring Book; the latter is one of my favourite songs. Elizabeth stood centre stage behind a screen; a giant image of her own face projecting over her, softly wringing the emotion out of each word, in that haunting etherial voice. Rarely have I heard and seen such a passionate and authentic performance of a song. She was simply stunning; it was worth attending the event for her performance of My Colouring Book alone. The “gilm” concluded with an upbeat message, reaffirming that we were in control of our own destiny and that we could change the world. The final slogan displayed on the screens told us to “Now Find Your Own Way Home”. We were directed out of the building in a quite different direction to the one in which we entered; guided only by one extremely bright searchlight. As we passed through the derelict building, we were watched over by a guard with an alsatian dog; the dog barked loudly at us. All quite strange. Did it work? Yes in part. It was certainly a unique and impressive experience. I felt that some of the images were a little too bizarre, and some a little too obvious, as were some of the slogans. But I’m pleased I attended, and I am delighted that I had the opportunity to witness Elizabeth Fraser’s haunting performance; it is some 30 years since I last saw her perform in the Cocteau Twins.
“This is the room that I sleep in and walk in; And weep in and hide in; That nobody, nobody’s seen; Oh, colour it lonely, please” (My Colouring Book; Ebb and Kander, 1962).