THE BEGINNING

At the end of a bleak period for British politics, this was exactly what was needed.

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Massive Attack @ British Summertime Festival, Hyde Park, Friday 1 July

At the end of a bleak week in British politics, it’s a huge relief to swap relentless rolling news for live music. We’ve come to Hyde Park to forget Brexit or to find catharsis, and it’s difficult to imagine a double-bill better placed to express our pent-up frustration than Patti Smith and Massive Attack.

Striding onstage in the early evening sunshine, Smith’s set is entirely fuelled by righteous fury. ‘Pissing In A River’ is dedicated to Julian Assange, ‘Land/Horses’ features a howled polemic attacking “governments, corporations, all the bullshit surrounding us,” and she concludes ‘Beneath The Southern Cross’ by bellowing, “We control our own fucking destiny. Don’t let anyone take it away – we are FREE!”

Like Smith’s, Massive Attack’s set teems with anger. The show seethes below the surface, threatening to explode at any moment. On opener ‘United Snakes’, you can sense it beneath the oppressive layers of blistering synths. It’s there too in the ominous bassline snaking through a thrillingly claustrophobic rendition of ‘Angel’ – its eerie vocal reprised by a wheelchair-bound Horace Andy – and in the frantic percussion that powers Young Fathers-track ‘Old Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

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Young Fathers are a revelation tonight, flexing, swaggering and dedicating ‘Shame’ to “fucking bastards” Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. Tricky proves a similarly malevolent presence, prowling the stage during ‘Take It There’, while TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe turns in a haunting vocal performance on ‘Pray For Rain’, making amends for their disappointing set earlier in the day, which was undermined by poor sound.

A huge part Massive Attack’s power tonight is derived from inspired motion graphics and lighting design. Screens wrapped around the stage rapidly relay information, variously displaying brand logos or names of political parties, and regurgitating soundbites like “sick of experts” and “breaking point”. During ‘Voodoo In My Blood’, the back screen becomes an airport departure board, and a sense of rising panic is palpable as gates close and flights are cancelled.

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Following a show-stealing rendition of ‘Safe From Harm’, the band leave us with images of Syrian refugees. When they return with a chamber orchestra for ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, the message “we’re in this together” is displayed prominently. The gesture echoes sentiments expressed by 3D earlier in the set. Introducing ‘Eurochild’ as “a requiem”, he entreated us to, “Move on together,” adding, “We can’t allow our values to be diminished. We need to stand by our principles, and not let the bigots and racists back into this situation.” It’s this powerful message of compassion and unity that means we depart Hyde Park no longer downbeat but inspired.

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