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Arts and Entertainment

Massive Attack & Thievery Corporation @ Gibson Amphitheatre | Live Review, 11/07/10

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Photo by sleepydoll/Debi Del Grande via Flickr

Photo by sleepydoll/Debi Del Grande via Flickr
The “Monsters of Dub” double-bill of Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation wrapped up two months of co-headlining American tour dates in Los Angeles as part of the “LA 101” event at the Gibson Amphitheatre on Sunday night. The inspired pairing pulled an impressively large crowd that ran the gamut including post-rave survivors, music nerds, a thick swath of the city’s creative class and party people just down for heavy beats and heavier vibes (man).

Thievery Corporation took the stage precisely at their scheduled set time of 8:05 PM, immediately energizing the crowd with recognizable numbers like sitar-powered fan favorite “Lebanese Blonde.” Rob Garza and Eric Hilton charged through a well-rehearsed set featuring a cavalcade of vocalists and rappers alongside a sizable back line of musicians, including a horn section. Being a Los Angeles show, they invited resident and Jane’s Addiction vocalist Perry Farrell to croon through collaboration “Revolution Solution” from their 2005 album “The Cosmic Game.” He did so in elegant fashion, clad in a formfitting suit and basking in the adulation. Thievery Corporation’s set was a groovy, crowd-pleasing dance party that rode on rubbery bass lines and infectious percussion. It’s especially notable given the downcast mood of the night’s headliner.

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Photo by sleepydoll/Debi Del Grande via Flickr
For Massive Attack, it was the storied UK outfit’s second swing through town this year. The band had already supported their most recent album Heligoland with three sold-out shows at the Wiltern Theater back in the spring. This show expanded on the already politically heavy slant of those shows. LED video screens literally spelled out a wide variety of global atrocities, from the number of executions in various countries to the staggering costs for America to occupy countries like Afghanistan. Falling the same week as the Republican-leaning mid-term elections, the results seemed to cast an even darker pall over Massive Attack’s already shadowy set. Grinding through the more ominous side of their catalog, they showcased heavier songs like “Inertia Creeps,” “United Snakes,” “Risingson” and “Mezzanine.” Vocalists Daddy G and 3-D exchanged seething vocals with guests like longtime Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird, who crooned through a sublime version of “Teardrop” (AKA the theme song from TV show “House”). It was a harsh, apocalyptic set that also featured the band’s perennial voice/light in the darkness, Horace Andy, on songs like “Baby, I Love You.” Behind them, sardonic phrases like “Meg Whitman Seen Auditioning For American Idol” scrolled between far grislier statements.

While some young professionals openly griped about the late hour on a work-night, most stayed put through Massive Attack’s encore, a frantic version of new song “Atlas Air.” It ended with 3-D flailing around the stage in front of video screens blasting a numbing series of corporate logos, with emphasis on British Pacific. With as much vitriol the band’s show threw at America, they at least saved the final (and harshest) social criticisms for their own country. — Scott T. Sterling