Massive Attack / Young Fathers @ O2 Academy, 22 Jan

Live Review by Claire Francis | 27 Jan 2016
  • Massive Attack

'Support slot' is a woefully inadequate descriptor for the brilliant performance erupting from Young Fathers. We’re here, of course, in giddy anticipation of trip-hop giants Massive Attack, but the full house sardined into the majestic O2 Academy is being momentarily bewitched as the raucous Edinburgh trio scene-steal with aplomb. For those who’ve until now not seen Young Fathers in the flesh, it’s a revelation: a glorious, cacophonous and fearsome romp through their genre-redefining sophomore album; intensified by touring drummer Steven Morrison’s percussive acrobatics, it’s not so much a hint, as a promise of things to come.

As we later witness Messrs Massaquoi, Bankole and 'G' Hastings return to the stage to unveil their collaborative effort with the Bristol stalwarts, the expansive, ominous Voodoo In My Blood, there’s a palpable paradigm shift, an audible torch-pass between the classic innovators and the young successors. Despite the colossal sound desk, twin drum kits and strobing, politically-incendiary backdrop visuals, Massive Attack themselves are a strangely small stage presence. Original members Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall open their set with two back-to-back bass and drum bangers that have the ecstatic audience transported to the glory days of 90s acid rave, but the debut of new material and the constant shifting between up-tempo electronica and meandering ballads creates an atmosphere of hiccupped momentum and crowd disengagement.

Massive Attack’s greatest dilemma may be that their sublime recorded output is near impossible to recreate live, especially given the rich host of guest vocalists and collaborators who have illuminated their albums. Though the enchanting Martina Topley-Bird does commendable vocal duty and the endearing presence of Horace Andy lessens Tricky’s tangible absence, Massive Attack’s wilful evasion of their hit singles and abrupt one-song encore (though the song in question is the wonderfully executed Splitting The Atom) leave the venue slightly stultified. Rather than flexing their pioneering influence, tonight they appear a group ceding their mantle, leaving it to the rapidly ascending Young Fathers to provide the extra magic.