Looking backwards over two decades can be a belly-gazing exercise in self-indulgence, but the Mezzanine XXI tour succeeded on nearly every level. The pioneering trip-hop record from Massive Attack was gussied up for tours of Europe and North America, with this stop being rescheduled when the entire tour was postponed in March. Not content to perform the piece as if you were at home, either putting in a CD or plopping on side A first, the band threw the album sequencing out the door and added in a few choice covers.
Starting off a show with a cover as good as the Velvet’s “I Found A Reason” is a bold and inspired choice, a certain jolt to anyone who was expecting “Angel.” The other covers ranged from meh (Avicii’s “Levels,”) pretty solid (The Cure’s “10:15 Saturday Night”, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”) to outright outstanding (Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” and Ultravox’s “Rockwrok”). The band had a wide variety of projections behind them for most of the night, ranging from a bizarre Putin/Trump morphing, face identification and social media data theft, and random phrases that were updated recently, such as “Who killed Epstein?” But for the Seeger flower power folk classic, the images were an unflinching montage of the Iraqi war and the damage it has wreaked. I originally thought it was a bit heavy handed, but maybe the national news should show this footage every single night, as I’d bet that I am not alone in thinking of the war has faded to an abstract concept that really has no bearing on me.
As for the Ultravox cover, I’d just pegged them as an OMD/Duran Duran disciple synth-pop band but I was proven completely wrong. Plenty of oomph and power behind “Rockwrok,” bringing a real burst of energy to the set. The best thing of the show, however, was the enlisting of original singers Horace Andy and Liz Fraser. Andy’s a reggae legend and his distinctive voice spread out all over “Angel,” definitely a highlight of the evening. Fraser made her mark via the ethereal Cocteau Twins, but she wasn’t just a hired studio gun for this record and contributed three key songs. She first came out on “Black Milk,” but “Teardrop” was arguable the biggest hit on the record after “Angel” (and topped “Come To Daddy” for the year’s best video, throwing dark shade at the Duchess of York when accepting it), its shuffling beat forging intrigue, sorrow, and a relentless search for a way to salvage a crumbling relationship. Twenty one years later, it’s clear that Mezzanine still has a strong hold on Massive Attack fans.
Click below for more photos of the show here: