LIVE, IN PHOTOS: Massive Attack Brings “Mezzanine” to San Francisco

In addition to cuts from their classic 1998 album, the Bristol trip-hop duo surprised their audience with plenty of covers.

Massive Attack finally brought their delayed Mezzanine XXI show to the states with a powerhouse performance at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Seeing Massive in the states is a rare treat, but seeing them with longtime collaborator and Cocteau Twins vocalist Elizabeth Fraser is like winning the lottery and spotting a unicorn on the same day. 

While Massive has maintained its Bristol sound-system roots with a constantly rotating list of touring and recording members, this was as close to the classic iteration as you can get, featuring both core members Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall—as well as legends Horace Andy and Liz Frazer, who not only came out for classics “Teardrop” and “Black Milk,” but stood bathed in darkness for a jaw-dropping cover of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

While this tour was conceived to celebrate the band’s landmark album, they used the opportunity to address current events, specifically our ubiquitous political tensions that seem to permeate our every waking hour. The band once again turned to political documentarian Adam Curtis for visuals, who delivered a dynamic and playful backdrop to the tight ninety-minute set. 

The set itself included not only the majority of Mezzanine, but some obscure and surprising covers, including the somewhat jarring opener, an uncharacteristically straightforward version of The Velvet Underground’s “I Found a Reason.” Before the final notes of this song ended, however, the malevolent strains of “Risingson” slowly filled the cavernous space with subsonic bass and that sense of creeping dread the band is known for. Other covers were a bit more expected, including Bauhaus’ “Bela Legosi’s Dead,” The Cure’s “10:15 Saturday Night,” and a spiky, punk rock version of Ultravox’ “Rockwrok.”

While pointed and political, the slightly cynical show wasn’t preachy, but neither was it a dance party or celebration. At one point, the giant screen behind the band read “Memories of the Past Cloud Our Vision of the Future.” Massive Attack is seemingly aware that while they will never manage to get all of their fans to move past their hit 1998 album, they’re always several steps ahead.

Relive the experience with the photos below.

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