DJ Shadow with Chris James and Lateef the Truthspeaker opening for Massive Attack at the Greek in Berkeley…
Friday, September 22nd – time for another rendezvous with the producers of passion. Yes, you guessed it, my brother and I were in line for the DJ Shadow/Massive Attack show in the Greek. To describe the evening in one sentence, i’ll say the following – I’m listening to a lot of hyphy music from now on, and i’ll be sure to throw in some Bristol hip-hop/trip-hop in there. And an investement in a turntable wouldn’t be a bad idea
Some background first…
DJ Shadow opened up the evening with a sweet display of turntablist mastery… For those of you who have not listened to DJ Shadow, he’s a local Bay Area turntablist who have made it big and has been a defining DJ in the Trip-Hop genre, although I should say that he apparently does not like that title, so i’ll use it sparingly. His work includes hip-hop, rap, instrumental electronica, lounge, trip-hop and funk – mostly a blend of many of these styles. He’s a true master behind the turntable and his beats and loops really shine. Check out his album “The Private Press” with songs like “Mashin’ on the Motorway” and “Monosylabik” for some more ‘traditional’ electronic hip-hop, and get his brand new album “The Outsider” for a mix of all kinds of music (rock, hyphy, rap, instrumental electronica). His earlier work is also amazing – what i’ve heard of the album “Endtroducing” really rips it out on all levels. “Midnight in a perfect world” was hailed as one of the best electronic songs of all time and i do agree!
Massive Attack is a UK-based ‘group’ from Bristol. I’m still trying to figure out exactly who and what they are, and they definitely have an interesting history (wikipedia…). Their music sounds very electronic and computer-created (in a good way with a ot of passion) yet when they walked on stage they had two drumsets, a guitarist, bassist, keyboard player and lead singer – no turntables?? Where’s the DJ? Yes, indeed, for a group that’s started 15+ years ago as a bunch of turntablists they’ve come a long way.
After yesterday night The Greek is in my opinion one of the greatest venues for live performances. Its very personal and there’s lots of crowd-performer interaction going on. DJ Shadow played for a reasonable small crowd but we rocked hard! His audiovisual setup is amazing, with video synchronized to his effects pads. He was laid back and looked like he was having a fun time, which definitely inspired me to rock out to his music. The crowd got up close and bebopped with him nicely. Nothing too crazy, just a good opener. He bought Chris James out to do two songs with him from his new album. Both songs reminds me a lot of Radiohead, and it was interesting to see what DJ Shadow did with that style of vocals – nothing too extravagant but with some good beats and scratches it blended well. The crowd wasn’t too sure what to make of it though, but it was generally enjoyed. After some banter with the audience (Shadow is from the Bay Area and enjoyed his local crowd) he bought out Lateef the Truth Speaker (Another artist on my list of to-check-out people) and together they rocked the house with hits like “Mashin’”. It was during this time that i finally became enlightened to the word “Hyphy”, which i’ve been searching for a good definition of since David K the Bassmaster (as i call him) claimed that he only danced to Hyphy music. Me being the African I am had to ask him about that, but i did not get a good answer till now. Representing the Bay Area is what Hyphy is all about. Wikipedia it
Massive attack took the stage about 30 minutes later on to have to crown grooving, bopping, grinding and head-nodding for at least two hours. Since I’m coming into electronica from a hard rock and punk direction, and i’m very much influenced by my classical training, i enjoy live performances of complex, fast, lyrically and musically intricate songs the most – the ones to which you can dance fast and be entranced by the melodies and blends. Massive attack does not exactly fall into this caregory, being much more of a lounge-out or slow groove group in my humble opinion (this is the reason i like them, incidentally!) I was amused to see the differences in crowd response between something like Chili Peppers and Massive Attack. I wish there were chairs at the Massive Attack show and no chairs at Chili Peppers!
All in all their show was great – the visuals were great and very much in connection with their style of performance, and their music was well-performed. For a group with a studio sound they kicked ass live. I was slightly disappointed with the mix – the lyrics were drowned out in bass and the guitar got yanked wide open towards the end of the show. Their albums are much more drum/bass driven with emotionally strong and unmissable lyrics and vocal performances that rivals the great figures in both popular and classical music. This did not always come through live, especially not on their hit “Teardrop”.
They opened the night with almost 10 minutes of scrolling facts on three LED panels beneath their drum/keyboard stages. Some members of the crowd (undoubtedly those who were there to impress their girlfriend or show their coolness in knowing trip-hop) were annoyed by the display of facts of Berkeley. I found it to be fitting with their musical style of introspection and placement. It was as if the crowd was asked to remind themselves and discoever again where they are. Straight through the show they never had bright spotlights on them, but were illuminated from behind by their LED display setup and spots that colored the smoke or the crowd. They were also reasonabgle political, showing statistics of the War on Terror and dedicating their one song against the War on Terror and critisizing Bush and Blair.
All in all I recommend Massive Attack both live, at the lounge and late night at home, although i do think you need to be prepared to spend some time sitting down relaxing to their performance and some time dancing as exhuberantly as you can. Not everyone can manage a concert which includes both those aspects… DJ Shadow is definitely someone to look out for, and if you can see him in your local club, do so!