Glastonbury Day 3: Massive Attack

The witching hour draws near on Sunday night in Glastonbury. Time for local heroes Massive Attack to bring the noise to the Other Stage before it goes dark for another year.

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The witching hour draws near on Sunday night in Glastonbury. Time for local heroes Massive Attack to bring the noise to the Other Stage before it goes dark for another year.

After three days of watching guitar bands offer up their generally conservative take on retro-blues tropes, Massive come as a welcome relief, demonstrating how the colour blue can span a rich multicultural spectrum from gently menacing soul symphonies to dystopian post-punk dubtronica.

Once a byword for brooding understatement, Massive in 2014 make a shuddering, scouring, surprisingly rowdy racket. Visually, they remain a clutch of furtive figures lurking in semi-darkness. But their sound has acquired extra muscle just as their stage presentation has grown teeth, notably a billboard-sized screen that blitzes the crowd with scrambled news headlines, political disinformation, anti-war slogans and personal testimonies from Guantanamo Bay inmates. At times it almost feels like watching Wikileaks – The Musical.

Tonight’s show is mostly about strong female voices counterpointed by discordant, percussive, weaponised noise. Latterday Massive regular Deborah Miller provides belting vocals on “Safe From Harm” and “Unfinished Sympathy”, early 1990s anthems that have become increasingly belligerent over the last two decades. Martina Topley-Bird, best known for her collaborations with former Massive member Tricky, takes on the softer ballads, including a gorgeous “Teardrop” that shimmers with a new, sinewy, Saharan heat-haze feel.

Back on Friday morning, Debbie Harry stood on this same stage and christened the festival. “Glastonbury!” she grinned. “Nowhere else like it!” Massive Attack attempt nothing so glibly crowd-pleasing during this noir-ish finale, but their rhythmic rebel-rock rumbles make just as much sense here. Bluesy discontent meets hippie resistance, soulful uplift meets punk protest. Glastonbury provides a temporary place of refuge for all dissident tribes here in the Vale of Avalon. Nowhere else like it.
Stephen Dalton

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