The Unusual Suspects (Venue
11th February 2005)
The first one sold out so quickly they decided to put on another one. Now
heading up two wholly unique benefit nights for the Crisis In Asia appeal at
Carling Academy Bristol, Massive Attack and Portishead tell Venue why
they wanted to work together to raise money for the victims of the Asian
tsunami. And is Robert Plant really going to show?
Bringing It All Back Home
Massive Attack and Portishead have never shared the same stage before, but thats
all about to change as both bands team up to play the Academy in aid of the
tsunami appeal. Anna Britten rounded
them up to find out how it all came together and
what the lucky ticket-holders can
The policeman that drives past Venue's photo
shoot gives a cheery wave in the direction of the thirtysomethings huddled
against a wall off King Square. Either
he thinks they are off-duty
charity workers or,
prior to signing up for
the force, he
was a Dug Out regular.
For very few other
Bristolians would be
capable of such nonchalance
(not to mention safe driving) at the unexpected
and unique sight of both Massive
Attack (Robert '3D' Del Naja and Grant 'Daddy
G' Marshall) and Poitishead (Beth
Gibbons, Geoff Barrow and Adrian
Utley) braving the chilly January air
for some united pop star mugging. "We
stood like this in order to have the girl in the middle," chirrups
Del Naja to Venue's photographer. " Sorry, 'woman' in the middle."
then adopts his trademark pose - frowning with hands folded across his
groin, like a footballer in
the fullback position during a point-blank free
'Girl's better," cackles Beth Gibbons in response, and gives the camera
the pinched, tormented look we've known and loved since 'Dummy'.
reason for this high-profile shoulder-rub is - in case you've been abroad
for the last month - February
19 & 20's fundraising concerts at the Academy
in support of Oxfam's work in tsunami-ravaged Asia. Unbelievably, it
marks the first time Massive Attack and Portishead have
ever shared a stage
- and is the latter's first gig since
1998. Tickets for 19 Feb sold out in
under two hours, hundreds of thousands of pounds'
worth of aid is expected to be
generated, and all stops are being pulled out to raise
further funds through a worldwide
live webcast (details at end of page). It
is, then, a huge event in every sense.
Massive Attack and
Portishead have never shared the same stage before, but that's all about to change
as both bands team up to play the Academy in aid
of the tsunami appeal. Anna Britten rounded
them up to find out how it all came together and
what the lucky ticket-holders can
expect on the night.No
one realises this more than Massive Attack and Portishead themselves. Sitting
in a Stokes
cafe-bar, Robert Del Naja, Geoff Barrow and Adrian
(Beth Gibbons, being a 'recluse',
disappears after the photo shoot, while
Daddy G saunters away with a laid-back "D
[Del Naja] can
speak for me") lay down a ground rule:
won't answer any questions about Portishead or Massive Attack. As Venue
fire to several notebooks, they explain they don't
- understandably - want
to be seen to be getting publicity for their bands on the back of the good cause
So we're not answering any questions about the new record," says Utliey. "So
there is one?" Silence. Venue repeats the question. Barrow cups his ear: "Sorry?
in again: "Of course there'll be another record. Why else
would we still be together?" (Later
he'll accuse Venue of being 'very sly' in enquiring as to whether the set lists
will include oldies or new stuff.)
also feel it would be 'bollocks' to discuss personal feelings with regard
to the tsunami. Says Del Naja: "I
think it's obvious why we're doing it because I think everyone was affected
by it and I think the fact the gigs are going
on and people are buying tickets speaks
for itself without going into any
little matter cleared up, Barrow explains how the Academy event came about: "I
was talking to Beth on the phone, and she just mentioned what had happened
about it, then
I got off the phone and thought 'We've
got to do something'.
was just before New Year. I phoned Ade and then rang Beth back - so we
were all on for
didn't have a venue or anything, it was just
idea. Phoned up D, because it was the obvious
next place to go, and D called me back, and
said he was interested in definitely
doing it. I heard from a friend that John Stapleton
[BlowPop promoter] had been offered
the Academy to put together a fundraiser.
I phoned him, he said 'whatever you want to do'
and that was it, the start
not just fellow wearers of the 'pioneers of trip hop' ankle tag, the
two bands obviously
a close friendship, constantly trading genial
about everything from talent to whose turn
it is to buy lunch. On hearing Massive
Attack have already started rehearsals,
Barrow deadpans "
They need more than us" and threatens to meddle with their monitors. "We
knew each other, over the years, as mates," continues Barrow. "Basically,
we knew if we were going to do something in Bristol it'd be wicked to
have them, it was obvious."
picks up the story: "Geoff
and I had just been producing The Coral's new album, so we thought of them
straight away. We just decided to ring everyone
we know and ask them to do it. Same
with D, [to Del Naja] you've ' been bombarding
resultant, wonderfully eclectic current line-up is Massive Attack, Portishead,
The Coral, Robert Plant (who was in the process of planning his own fundraising
gig in Bath when the call came)
Fuzz Against Junk and various special
guests. So did anyone ring Tricky
if they could complete The Holy Trinity
of Bristol music? They all look at each
"I think it's normally, mostly, best when talking about Tricky... ah,
diplomacy," stumbles Del Naja.
is the best word to use when dealing with Tricky."
"No comment," adds
"I ain't spoke to Trix for years," shrugs Barrow. "I
think he's living in the States and stuff. So I suppose it would be a bit
presumably, eat into valuable profits somewhat. A far cry from Massive Attack
and Portishead gigs
which respectively have included several
billion gigabytes of audio-visual
jiggery pokery ("'Flashy?'
They're information-based, actually," Del
Naja protests) and full orchestras ("Have you
seen the size of the stage down there?"),
these shows promise to be stripped-down 'unplugged' affairs.
"We started off thinking we didn't want a massive, full production with
loads of gear," explains Utley. "So
the premise was we'd do it as acoustically as possible and add whatever electronics
we need. It's not really 'unplugged' but very
little is 'unplugged' now. It means 'not as we've
done it before'. It'll be a stripped-down
set-up, with shared equipment and shared
is a particularly appealing prospect for a manifestly tour-weary Del Naja. "
We've toured for the last two years non- stop," he says, "and this
is an opportunity to do something completely different - no production, no
fucking 'concept'. The idea is to rearrange tracks,
play them in a completely different way with
different people. It's exciting for us.
We're using a completely different band from
the people we've been touring with for
the last eight years since the 'Mezzanine'
tour in '97. It's gonna be me, Grant and
Elizabeth [Fraser - ex Cocteau Twin and
regular Massive Attack guest vocalist]. No others
because it's such a short set. If we got
Horace [Andy] back from Jamaica, someone's
gotta pay his air ticket and his
food bill and he eats a fair amount, Horace.
gonna be a laugh in rehearsals. It'll be interesting for everyone on the .
night because they
seen us that way and they won't have
seen Portishead that way for a long time."
- the 'Head's last live gig was seven years ago, in Holland. Utley has just
been sent a bootleg
in fact. Many bands would be apprehensive
about treading the boards together after
so long but, says Utley: "It's gonna
be nice even just doing rehearsals. I think we're pretty quick to get back
into our stuff because we're actually not going
to adapt it so much as [gestures to Del Naja]
you guys are gonna do. So I think we'll
be on it pretty
four or five
tunes each, so it's a really quick changeover."
we expect some hits? "We haven't got any," says
him 'Glory Box' is on Classic FM TV. "I'll phone up our accountant
then. Thirty pound a pop, innit?" he
"We don't want to give too much away because it takes away the fun of
the night," says Del Naja.
"We're gonna play each other's tracks... and then..." says
"....fuck those up," laughs
gonna do 'Eye Of the Tiger'..."
"The main issue," Del Naja butts in seriously, "is
I'm just a bit concerned that on the night the big Portishead 'P' doesn't
from the top of the lighting rig during our set. So
we've got a big flame that we're getting built
that's gonna be hidden in the rafters which
we're gonna drop halfway through their set."
Another avenue of questioning
deftly headed off at the pass, then, but Barrow will give ticket holders one
- rather cryptic
- tip: "You
should definitely get there early because you wouldn't expect people to be
"Don't wait till the end of the night to turn up and see the bands you
might want to see," interprets Utley.
are they going to decide on the night who goes on first? "Probably."
"It depends on the special guests as well," says Del Naja, "because
they're just gonna turn up on the day and do what they want. When Geoff first
suggested it,he said to me 'Let's
make it ramshackle', and I was like 'Yeah, fuck it
- let's make it ramshackle. Let's have fun'."
in on this fun but missed out on tickets? Oxfam are auctioning a handful on
the website, along
or 30" limited-edition, hand-painted
T-shirts by Del Naja and Banksy. Otherwise you can console yourself with a
live webcast for £4.50
(see details at end), something the bands are promoting heavily both here and
across the globe. "It's
only £4.50," says
Utley. "Even if you only
watch ten minutes of it, do it."
"It's cheaper than a packet of fags," reasons
work won't end when the lorry pulls out of Frogmore Street in the early hours
Says Del Naja: "We're going to be working
with Oxfam over this year on their Make Poverty History programme. We're thinking
of maybe doing something at Christmas
- maybe focusing on the Aids in Africa
issue. We want to keep something going
now we've set the website
up, and make this an ongoing event. Once you've
got a formula in place, it
means there's more opportunities. There's
so many talented people in Bristol
and it's a great way of pulling
together to do the right thing."
So there you have it: Massive
Attack and Portishead, at it again, together at last, and they want you to
Freed from interview duties, Barrow, Utley
and Del Naja head off to collect the
T-shirts they'll be customising for the online
Make me sound intelligent," Barrow calls out as Venue waves goodbye.
MASSIVE ATTACK, PORTISHEAD,
THE CORAL, ROBERT PLANT AND SPECIAL GUESTS PLAY THE CARLING ACADEMY BRISTOL
SAT 19 &SUN
20 FEB. FOR MORE INFO AND TO VIEW THE LIVE WEBCAST, LOG ONTO WWW.CRISISINASIA.COM