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Saturday, November 13, 2010
Arriving in the sleepy beachside town for the Santa Barbara Bowl's concert season finale, Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation composed an intriguing double-headliner; creating an evening of sumptuous and sinister grooves, with a wide array of vocal styles represented.
Having heard announcements that the show would start promptly at 6:30, I was surprised to only initially see a hand-full of people at 6:15 (Santa Barbarians are notoriously laid back.) One of the other press commented that the audience was probably on their way - they just probably stopped on the way; what with having the munchies and all... Happily, 3000+ people seemed to show up all at once; minutes before the set started; and off the evening went.
On-stage first was the duo hailing from Washington DC, Thievery Corporation, composed of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton. I wasn't sure how interesting a concert with the two principals being on turntables & keyboards would sound. That question was answered almost from the start of their set. Acting as more a production-duo than traditional band, Thievery Corporation had a menagerie of guest artists (vocalists & musicians) join them on stage, making something that was anything but a prerecorded set.
The night's set featured eastern & dub infused songs. “Lebanese Blonde” was preformed with Sista Pat on vocals and Rob Myers on sitar (and later songs on guitar.) The set featured Electronica/Jamaican-flavored dub styling of vocalists Sleepy Wonder, and the safari-hat dressed brothers Zeebo & Rootz Steele of SEE-I, on other memorable tracks like "Richest Man in Babylon" and "Liberation Front." Their performance rolled on, song after song with nearly as many vocalists & musicians on stage as songs. The further the set went, the further the energy built from each song; proving that the DJ duo known as Thievery Corp. can put together a great show.
(and then the lights went down, in anticipation...)
Taking the stage at the Santa Barbara Bowl just before 8:30, Massive Attack turned the venue into Downtempo/Trip-Hop haven as they launched into the mostly instrumental but intense, "United Snakes." The band composed of Robert del Naja and Grantley Marshall, took the production-duo concept into a darker, more subtly sinister sound-space. The instrumental array that Massive Attack brought to the stage included two drum kits, as well as the standard adornment of bass, guitar, as well as multiple keyboards, and a shrouded but ubiquitous DJ setup.
High-points included Robert & Grantley sharing vocal duties on the lasciviously laced "Risingson," as well as the trippy "Inertia Creeps" and ""Future Proof." In addition to their moody vocals, the evening's set included stirring guest vocalists Martina Topley-Bird as well as Horace Andy; both featured on Massive Attack's recent release "Heligoland." Otherworldly seeming & tutu adorned; Martina, sung her way through beguiling renditions of the recent "Babel" as well a "Teardrop" from 1998's release "Mezzanine." Horace as a counterpoint, lent his presence and acumen to songs such as "Splitting the Atom" and "Girl, I love You."
In addition, the light show for Massive Attack's performance deserved kudos of it's own. Utilizing horizontal bars of programmable LED lights the width of the stage, the area behind the band proved to be nearly as visually stimulating as the band. The lights presented imagery in the form of binary data, inspirational & political quotes, flight schedules, and graphics; which left none-too-subtle impressions in the audience's subconscious. It also conveyed more than a slight political statement, in the form of the quotes from Howard Zinn & Noam Chomsky.
By the end of the set, the audience was speechless from Massive Attack's impressive audio and visual stimuli; making the evening as well, a massive success...
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