Massive Attack, massive sound at Luglio Suona Bene 2014

Massive Attack on stage in Rome
The 12th edition of Luglio Suona Bene, the annual open air concert season at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, got off to a rocky start this year with three artists – Jeff Beck, Rufus Wainwright, and Tom Odell – forced to cancel concerts at the last minute, making the M.I.T Meet in Town appointment with Massive Attack the first international event so far.

Dusk was slowly turning into night yesterday evening when the Bristolian trip hop pioneers took to the Cavea stage to whoops and cheers from the capacity crowd, and launched into the hypnotic Battle Box 001, with United Snakes and Risingson following in quick succession. More than simply a concert, a Massive Attack show is a multimedia spectacle blurring the edges between music and performance art, with the band engulfed in clouds of dry ice and silhouetted against huge screens. During the show we were lambasted visually with false flags, advertising logos, Iraq war statistics, Internet searches, and ticker tape news headlines (in Italian), with the audience cheering occasionally at the odd local news story. It was a fascinating examination of present society's banalising of news and politics into sound bites, mixed with gossip and entertainment tidbits.

Horace Andy with Massive Attack in Rome
Ultimately, however, it was the music - the sheer immensity of sound – that one took away from the evening. With no new album or product to promote, last night’s concert was an exhilarating “best of” journey through the band’s entire career, visiting tracks from Blue Lines, Mezzanine, 100th Window, and Heligoland, with band stalwarts Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja and Grant ‘Daddy G’ Marshall joined by regular live collaborators on the signature Massive Attack songs – notably the excellent Martina Topley-Bird providing the vocal on Teardrop, Horace Andy’s stand-out performance of the evening on Angel, and Deborah Miller’s stunning vocals on Unfinished Sympathy during the final encore. Utterly compelling.

Martina Topley-Bird with Massive Attack in Rome