Things often seemed to be happening in slow motion during Massive Attack’s spacious and brooding trip-hop performance before a sell-out-plus crowd at the humid Palladium, the final date of a monthlong U.S. trek.
And therein lies their cunning hook, as the Bristol, England, group’s concert was designed, like its three albums, to ensnare the discerning listener with slowly developing, seemingly endless grooves and passages that prove the journey, not the completion, is the better part of this trip.
After being credited earlier this decade with pioneering a studio style that combines some of the best parts of dance, reggae and hip-hop, the band’s formidable task when playing live (this was its first U.S. tour since 1995) is to create and maintain a drama that adds to the music, which otherwise closely resembled the album versions at the Palladium.
Opening with the sublime dance number “Angel,” the first song on their new Virgin Records album “Mezzanine,” Massive Attack walked the fine line that separates mood-making from yawn-making — no easy task for an electronic-based group in this echo-y, oversized barn of a venue — usually doing so with positive results.
Show’s greatest asset was the rotation of vocalists, two male and one female, one or two of them at a time, which added complexity and diversity to the songs that told modern tales of intrigue and deception.
Deborah Miller’s soulful voiced brought life to the bittersweet “Teardrop,” while the throbbing and creepy encore entry “Heat Miser,” from 1994’s “Protection” album, was the best of the group’s lyricless efforts.
A stripped-down stage set and the somewhat reticent attitude of the performers made for a visually unarresting 90-minute program that also occasionally got bogged down in instrumental restatement.