Saturday, 29 April 2006

It will come as no surprise to my friends that I’m willing to travel just to see a concert. I hate to travel, mostly because it weirds me out; all the strange people and strange places. I like knowing where I am and having the ability to just do things without having to think about it so much.

But for the right band, I’ll go. In this case it was Massive Attack in Denver. It helps, somewhat, that I have family in the Denver area, so when the opportunity came up, I took it.

You see, Massive Attack doesn’t really tour the United States that much. At least they haven’t in the past. They’ve stated publicly that they don’t care for how our government is handling international affairs and don’t like our drug laws. It seems they like to light a blunt now and again and the US gets a bit too uppity about it for their taste.

Recreational proclivities aside, I’ve always loved Massive Attack. Protection is one of my favorite albums and is in my “Desert Island Top 10.” Their music a sonic treat having just the right mix of a wide variety of elements that make them a chill-out staple.

The Filmore in Denver is a pretty good concert venue. It looks much like a basketball court that has been converted into a concert hall. There’s a huge dance floor in front of the 5′ tall stage and a platform surrounding the main floor that’s about 6′ up.

I got there pretty early, so I managed to get a spot dead center, no more than 20 feet from the stage. Being that close in you’re pretty much guaranteed a good show, but I was about to find out just how good it could be.

The opening act is barely worth mentioning. It was some DJ I had never heard of that just spun records for 60 minutes. It was all house music and nothing else. No light show, no scratching or other DJ trickery, really nothing at all to watch . Just a guy standing there manning a couple turntables.

After the opener was done and his gear cleared, it was time for the main attraction: Massive Attack. I had heard they put on a good show before, but I really wasn’t ready for this.

They had a couple keyboard players, a couple drummers/percussionists, a couple guitars, a bass player, and I swear nearly every singer that’s done vocals on their albums.

The light show was amazing, even in it’s simplicity. They had these pillars, about 20 of them, all across the back of the stage two or three feet apart. Each pillar had 10-12 light bars on it and each light bar had 6 or 8 light positions. It turns out that each light position was actually a set of super-bright, multi-color LED spots. They were so bright they could, and occasionally did, light up the whole place with them. It felt like staring into the sun at times. It created some great lighting effects which I think may have come out in a couple of the the pictures I took during the show.

They also used the LED array to spell out messages, mostly statistics about the war in Iraq; deaths on both sides, monetary costs, things that money could have been spent on to make the world a better place. It doesn’t really come out in the music, but it’s kind of part of who the band is. Besides, as close as I was, you couldn’t really read the stuff.

As for the music itself, it was fantastic. The tour was in support of their best-of retrospective, so they played all of the favorites. Lots of stuff off Protection, 100th Window, Mezzanine, and maybe even a couple from Blue Lines.

What surprised me quite a bit was that some of the songs on Protection, like the title track itself, they had a guy doing the vocals. They had a woman doing vocals for some of the other songs, but there were a quite a few that the guy did. Looking at the credits, it is actually a woman on the album, but it just wasn’t at all what I expected. But it was still a very good thing.

Sorry, I’m not sure what either of their names were.

Another huge surprise was when Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins came out and did vocals on several songs. That really made for a perfect evening. It couldn’t have gotten any better at that point: my all-time favorite female vocalist (from my all-time favorite band) there, in concert, singing with another top-10 band. I think my smile must have wrapped completely around my head at that point.

As I’ve said before, I’m lousy at keeping track of songs at shows because I tend not to actually know them by their titles. I’m not going to even try in this case.

I took a bit shy of 400 pictures during the show, although with the lighting not many of them are going to turn out. One of these days I’ll get the good ones on-line. There were also no autographs to be had, which is really a shame, since I would have killed for the opportunity to get a picture with Elizabeth Fraser and as well as the guys (3D, Daddy G, and Mushroom – the main people behind the group.)

If you ever get a chance to see them play live, absolutely go. It was one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had.

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