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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Gigs - Massive Attack v Adam Curtis - Mayfield Depot, Manchester International Festival

Star rating - 9/10

If you went to the Massive Attack/Adam Curtis event expecting a normal gig (as many of the audience seemed to have done) you would be a bit baffled and possibly disappointed. If however, you went with an open mind, hoping to see something spectacular, a little uncomfortable possibly,  and thought provoking - then you were in for a rare treat.

As with so many MIF events, the venues are as much of an attraction as the main acts, and this disused railway depot at the back of Piccadilly train station was one of the most intriguing locations this time around. You were given prior warning of no open toed footwear and no heels, and the dark immense cavern of a building was surrounded with giant screens for the projection of Curtis's images. This was really a cross between a gig and a film, as the unsettling photos told the story of how post war idealism of the American and Russian varieties were both doomed to failure. Giant images of Donald Trump, Jane Fonda, Michael Jackson, Tony Blair etc hammered home the point. ( And as I confess to having owned the actual Jane Fonda fitness video in the '80s, the clips of her were particularly disturbing as you can imagine!).

The music was a beautiful backdrop, sometimes played live, sometimes just recordings to juxtapose the images like The Archies sickly saccharine Sugar Sugar as the pictures told of a world doomed to fall in on itself. Elizabeth Fraser from the Cocteau Twins and reggae star Horace Andy sang  hauntingly and sweetly as images flashed up of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena being executed, and then Vladimir Putin using the same system to rise to the top as a modern day dictator. 

It was pretty much 90 minutes of unrelenting gloom and the stuff of Orwellian nightmares, which I found absolutely mesmerising. The only fault I could find is that at the very end of it all, a slightly glib message about how, if we all got together, we could put a stop to all the nonsense was flashed up. Not exactly clear how that would happen but I guess it was aimed to send the crowds away without feeling they should just jump under a nearby train at Piccadilly station instead of carrying on with the dystopian reality that is their lives. 

A really brilliant and original idea, which was very well executed, with a wonderful soundtrack, and barking guards dogs to escort you off the premises. How could you possibly ask for more?

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