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Massive Attack is ready to launch a huge Paramount show (Seattle P.I. 21st April 2006)
Eat your hearts out, Coachella fans. When Massive Attack opens its tour in Seattle Wednesday night at the Paramount Theatre, the show likely will be bigger and better than its performance at the massive California music festival later this month.
"Unfortunately, the Coachella show has to be shorter," Robert "3D" Del Naja said of the English group's appearance at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival April 29-30.
"There won't be as much time. Whereas the Seattle show can be longer. So there will be much more in the Seattle show," Del Naja said in a phone call from London.
Like what?
"We'll have a full complement of acoustic and electronic equipment. It's quite massive, with lots of potential for mishaps and disasters," he said with a laugh.
"But it's not as complex as what we've done in the past. It'll have more of a trashy-glam kind of look. It's quite beautiful, but also quite broken and sort of disjointed, which is quite nice. I think it's going to be sexy."
Massive Attack, featuring Del Naja, Grant "Daddy G" Marshall, Andrew Vowles and nearly a half dozen other performers (among them singers Elizabeth Frazer of the Cocteau Twins and Horace Andy), turned the world of electronic music on its ear when its first album, "Blue Lines," made its debut in the early 1990s.
The group's blend of reggae, dub, R&B, hip-hop, punk and soulful electronica spawned the "trip hop" genre, opening the gates to a flood of like-minded acts, from Portishead and Sneaker Pimps to Tricky, an ex-member of Massive Attack.
In 1995, the group from Bristol collaborated with Madonna on the song "I Want You" for a Marvin Gaye tribute. The group also contributed music to the "Batman Returns" soundtrack and wrote "Wire" for the Oscar-nominated film "Welcome to Sarajevo."
But the group that London's New Musical Express described as "perhaps the greatest English group of the past 10 years" hasn't performed in Seattle since the well-received "Mezzanine" tour in 1998. Why so long?
Well, partly because Del Naja and collaborator Neil Davidge were busy writing film scores and doing production work and guest vocals for others. And building a new studio. Marshall also took time off to raise a young family.
But the group's last globe-trotting tour in support of the "100th Window" album in 2003-2004 never made it to North America.
"It was unfortunate. It became a very expensive tour," Del Naja said.
"We put together a really great audio-visual show, but it was very high-maintenance. If we had taken it to the States, we would have fully bankrupted ourselves. We'd already done this whole mega-European tour and a run through Asia, Australia and South America, and we thought, 'Well, s--t, we can't take it to North America.' It was very disappointing."
The current tour, which is nearly as ambitious, features two drummers instead of one and a large entourage of musicians, technicians and stage hands.
"It'll be cool to see how it all fits together. It'll either be a beautiful journey or disjointed anarchy," Del Naja said.
The tour coincides with the release of a beautifully packaged new retrospective album, "Collected," featuring such classics as "Safe From Harm," "Teardrop" and "Unfinished Sympathy," as well as a new song, "Live With Me," with ethereal vocals by Terry Callier. There's also a DVD of the group's best videos.
"I suppose there's a stigma attached to a retrospective. It suggests the end of an era," Del Naja said.
"But it's sort of ridiculous to get caught up in the idea of the end of one era because the eras change so quickly to me. The playing field is constantly shifting."
Massive Attack's career developed during a period of dramatic change in the music industry.
"The Internet has changed this industry and changed our lives. We were children of the digital age ourselves with samplers and computers. It's been a really interesting time.
"What was important to me in putting together 'Collected' was to present a really interesting and valuable package. It had to be something that no one else could do, with new material and packaging."
Massive Attack also has been working on its fifth studio album, "Weather Underground."
"We're trying to expand on this gothic-soul thing that I've particularly been interested in since the beginning," Del Naja said.
Massive Attack's music has always had as much to do with people as technology.
"It's about working with people that have a real defined personality as well as a great voice, people who can convey what's happening inside of me," he said.
"I love a lot of electronic music, and I love a lot of acoustic music. It's kind of just keeping it human that I think is our greatest contribution. Because it's easy to get lost."

by Gene Stout