Massive Attack brought their Mezzanine XXI Tour to the Palace Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota this Tuesday, September 10. It was a rescheduled date due to a band member illness delaying the tour entirely. Those attending didn’t seem to mind however, as many of them were probably in the same boat as me. Growing up in the ‘90s, I was obsessed with this band. I never thought I would see them live though, let alone see them playing the “Mezzanine” album (which is my favorite of theirs) live. The announcement of this tour last year was incredibly exciting. Although it was promoted as the Mezzanine XXI Tour, the setlist was not strictly based upon the “Mezzanine” album. There was a good mix of covers spanning The Cure, Velvet Underground, and Bauhaus sprinkled through the set. It came as a slight surprise to me, as I expected them to simply play their own work. There’s a lot of it to pull from.
The show began nearly an hour late, having their initial set time at 8pm. At ten to nine, they opened to an extremely packed theater. I never like when bands open (or close) with a cover. It may just be a personal thing, but I’m so excited to hear the music that I came for that I just want to push past the cover and can’t enjoy it. Opening with Velvet Underground’s “I Found a Reason” interlaced with video clips of bizarre variety really threw me. “Risingson” pulled me back in however. That’s when the nostalgia kicked in. The theme of extreme paranoia also kicked in. Whether it was via machines, the government, or just in general. It became a bit overwhelming at times, but was a solid theme for the setlist and I always appreciate a good theme. It shows someone is putting forth the extra effort. It all felt incredibly British. I certainly wasn’t the only one saying that in the crowd. The theme is fantastic for this day in age. With constant imagery of eyes, cameras, machines, and politicians, it very much emphasized the feel of being watched, something more evident now than ever before. Ironically enough, there were very few cell phone out for a show focusing on such things. I feel this crowd is all from the era where we didn’t have them at shows. And after waiting this damn long for this show, we are not going to kill the nostalgia by watching it through a screen.
The song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” was an absolute buzzkill. Not so much the song, which itself was gorgeous, but the video usage behind it. It was the moment of the night where the political clips as well as extreme real war footage was used and I really could have done without it. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I grew up going to Nine Inch Nails shows. I’m used to that at a show. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m older now and understand how truly sad war and loss is that I just don’t want to watch it during a concert. I don’t mind the subtext style stuff, but this was brutal. When I hear someone say, “I don’t want to watch video of a guy being shot.”, it’s not of the subtle nature. On a more technical side of things, the sound was amazing. I heard it brought up a lot. I’ve been to too many shows as of late where that was lacking. It was very good here. One thing to note is that they used a lot of strobes – far more than I have ever seen used at a show. If you haven’t been to the Palace Theater, go. Especially for a show like this, it has an incredible vibe. I felt like I was in that theater in “Mulholland Drive” throughout, which just kicked that nostalgia up to another level.
A good amount of the crowd left after “Teardrop”, which was easily predicted. Elizabeth Fraser’s performance of “Teardrop” was absolutely beautiful, rivaling the actual studio recording. The show was amazing. Massive Attack really knocked it out of the park with this one. I could have done without the war stuff, but that’s me. Standout songs for me personally were “Risingson”, “Man Next Door”, and “Dissolved Girl”.
Review Tracy Hansen photos Kyle Hansen