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Last Night: Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation at the Palladium Ballroom

Massive Attack, Thievery Corporation
Palladium Ballroom
Monday, November, 1 2010

Better than: Seeing the Rangers lose in Arlington.

A dense, late- to mid-20s crowd at the Palladium was treated to two sets of complementary ensemble groups on the Day of the Dead.

As legends of the trip-hop world, Thievery Corporation and Massive Attack indeed made for a fine pairing on this bill. But despite the rarity of Massive Attack shows of late, the crowd seemed more juiced for Thievery Corporation's set.

Massive Attack started under blue lights at 10 p.m. with the breakbeat and guitar drone of "United Snakes." A red-and-white LED display launched patterns and images while dropping knowledge from behind the band as the misty lights pulsed toward the crowd. Two drummers and a guitarist added an intense rock element to the often-guarded pair of Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall--who, to their credit, danced around the stage a bit.

But they had help: Prominent vocalists for Massive Attack appeared for a series of classic and new tracks--Martina Topley-Bird for "Teardrop" and "Babel," and Horace Andy for the more recent "Girl I Love You".

The audience was surprisingly mellow during the attack, dancing along the edges or throwing their hands up only for fan-favorite tracks. The tracks that got the most out of the audience were "Angel," which boasted Andy's trademark voice, and "Inertia Creeps," where a lot of the audience's movement reached its peak. Same for Toply-Bird's singing "Safe From Harm," which provided the biggest "attack" near the end of the band's set.

It was clear that this was a set to be appreciated; despite the minimal response, the band encored for a finale of "Atlas Air," which also fittingly ended Massive's latest album, Heligoland.

Opener Thievery Corporation saw a much more enthused audience. After starting their set shortly after 8 o'clock with a gypsy dancer and sitar for a pair of tracks that included "Lebanese Blonde," the band also employed two horns, a series of vocalists and a few Jamaican emcees to help fill the ample Palladium stage.

Their sound was fused South Asian and Middle eastern influences with dub reggae and jazz. Black-clad emcee Sleepy Wonder kept the crowd charged with tracks like "Radio Retaliation," which featured emcees Notch and Zee, both wearing pith helmets. For the most part, it was the guests that shined; co-founder Eric Hilton came out from behind the drums to perform "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter," but Rob Garza stayed behind the keys the whole set.

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The performance picked up the crowd with their highlight tracks "Sound the Alarm," "The Richest Man in Babylon" and "Vampires."

Critics Notebook
Personal Bias:
I'm sort of a late comer to the "massive," having followed Massive Attack since Mezzanine. The sound it had out back then influenced a lot of what I listen to today in electronic and rock. Their latest album Heligoland, lacks the "attack" from earlier albums in Massive's library, in my opinion. In good choice, though, their Dallas set included the more beat-driven tracks out of the new album.

Random Note: Props again to Palladium's great lighting.

By the Way: Double props to the drunk girls who grab my ass every time I go to the Palladium.

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