YouTube Live: Massive Attack is “Safe From Harm” in Phoenix ’96

Massive Attack emerged from the club scene in Bristol, England, with their 1991 debut Blue Lines. By all accounts it was the album that founded trip-hop, the atmospheric blend of house, dub reggae, soul, and hip-hop. Three more acclaimed albums followed their debut, including their biggest stateside hit Mezzanine, and, most recently, 2003’s 100th Window.

With the 1999 departure of founding member Andrew “Mushroom” Vowels, Massive are now a duo, consisting of Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall. But they’ve always operated like a loose collective, with vocalists and members coming and going as they please. On its face, this makes a tricky business of translating the group’s futuristic pop songs into live performances. But performances like this one of Safe From Harm at a 1996 gig in Phoenix demonstrate how they take their sleek, cinematic songs on the road.

One of the signature tunes off Blue Lines, “Safe From Harm” was first sung by early MA vocalist and fan favorite, Shara Nelson. In this performance, Deborah Miller, who joined Massive Attack for several tours through the years, replaces Nelson. Although she doesn’t quite achieve the steely spirit of the album version, Miller still ably conveys the noirish, sinister vibe of the song — and sports a kickass outfit while doing so. She and 3D stalk the stage before a note is sung or said, alluding to the song’s sense of dread. Supporting players, namely DJ Mushroom and guitarist Angelo Bruschini play off each other and with ease, as they transform a mellow head-nodder into a seething, then screeching wail of a song. In the background, Massive stalwart Horace Andy — he’s sung on all four of the group’s albums — provides plaintive harmony, adding a touch of vulnerability to the proceedings. In recent years, the band has perhaps performed more dynamic versions of this song; but I’m partial to this performance because it is something of a time capsule, capturing them well after they’d graduated from their Wild Bunch sound collective days, but before they became known as the godfathers of trip hop.

3D and Daddy G have promised that their long-awaited fifth album (tentatively titled Weather Underground) will finally be released this September. Coinciding with the album’s release is a tour scheduled to kick off September 5 in Guadalajara, Mexico. The band will then head to Europe for the remainder of the fall, before coming to North America and Asia in 2010. Check out the dates after the jump.

Massive Attack 2009 Tour Dates:
09/05 – Guadalajara, MX @ Auditorio Telmex
09/11 – Isle of Wight, UK @ Bestival
09/17 – London, UK @ O2 Academy
09/18 – London, UK @ O2 Academy
09/19 – London, UK @ O2 Academy
09/21 – Sheffield, UK @ O2 Academy
09/22 – Birmingham, UK @ O2 Academy
09/24 – Leeds, UK @ O2 Academy
09/26 – Manchester, UK @ O2 Academy
09/27 – Manchester, UK @ O2 Academy
09/28 – Glasgow, UK @ O2 Academy
09/30 – Newcastle, UK @ O2 Academy
10/02 – Leicester, UK @ De Montfort Hall
10/03 – Swindon, UK @ Oasis Leisure Centre
10/06 – Dublin, IE @ Olympia Theatre
10/07 – Dublin, IE @ Olympia Theatre
10/14 – Moscow, RU @ Luzhniki Sports Palace
10/16 – Helsinki, FI @ Old Ice Hall
10/18 – Stockholm, SE @ Annexet
10/19 – Copenhagen, DK @ Falkoner Theatre


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