Friday, 19 November 2010

Massive Attack, Santiago, Chile, November 18th 2010

For the first time in a long time I actually got to see some live music yesterday. A couple of free tickets saw me trundle along to a large concrete shed that calls itself Espacio Riesco. It’s one of those inhuman structures favoured the world over by artists too big for a city centre theatre abut not big enough for a stadium. It suited the headline band for cold detachment, but more of that later.

After donkeys years of gig going in the UK I am well used to overpaying for a drink at a venue, but 2000 pesos for a tin of beer? Even at the annual fondas (celebrating Chilean independence in a field with several thousand other people) they only have enough nerve to charge you 1000 pesos. I guess this should be understandable as ticket prices for this gig were far and away above the pockets of an average Chilean worker. I suppose you might argue that the working class in the UK might also not be attending such events, but the class divide in Chile rules supreme.

Our freebie ticket should have cost us 26.400 pesos (£34.50). For this we were fenced off halfway back. In order to secure an anywhere near decent view of proceedings it would have cost us 36.000 pesos (£50). To put this into perspective, the minimum wage is 172.000 pesos. The moneyed folk who coughed up £76 got to sit up on a scaffolding platform on what looked like seating borrowed from an airport departure gate. They had their own bar and didn’t have to wait to pay for overpriced beverages.

The relatively large space reserved for the mixing desks and fat blokes in combat shorts employed to twiddle knobs in the dark, was placed squarely in the middle of the cheap seats. This meant that when this area filled with hangers-on prior to Massive Attack taking the stage, a large majority of those behind now couldn’t see a thing. Calls for these people (who had the benefit of standing on flight cases) to move to the side or sit down were ignored.

Martina Topley Bird was first up (she has the same haircut as Arsenal defensive midfielder Alexandre Song). Initially I worried for her, wondering how a half empty concrete box full of disinterested, posh, Massive Attack fans might take to her quirkiness. I needn’t have worried. Despite a slow start she soon won the audience over, particularly with her use of the KT Tunstall schtick of singing a bit then looping it back to be used as backing vocals. She has a fine, sometimes childlike voice, and although the songs sometimes don’t immediately grab you, her voice certainly does. She made a brave stab at introducing songs in Spanish and the crowd loved her all the more for it. In fact, the crowd was so appreciative at some points during the evening that I did begin to wonder if they had ever heard music before. “What is this noise you make by pushing air out of your open mouth while simultaneously striking that stringed object?”

Topley Bird finished her set with a howl of feedback, which was quickly turned down by one of the view-obscuring knob-twiddlers, lest it cause one of the wealthy punters on the orange chairs to choke on their 800 pesos mouthful of cerveza.

Thievery Corporation were up next. They initially struck me as having Jeff Lynne and Frank Zappa as their horn section. The bass player looked like he wouldn’t be out of place in a metal band and the guitarist/sitar player was a chubby little fella in combats. Behind them were two others on a raised platform (it’s the kind of band that need those blokes at the back with headphones who sometimes raise their hands in the air), a percussionist and a variety of singers. It was all a bit Transglobal Underground for me, and although they did seem to play a longer set than Springsteen on Red Bull (available for about 4 quid on the night), which really sagged in the middle, they did have some great moments. A double act of rastas (wearing hats that I haven’t seen since It Aint Alf Hot Mum) prowled the stage relentlessly, although the highlight for me was the performance of a tall, thin lady who came on intermittently and sang in what sounded like Portuguese, although could have been something else. With the Metallica reject pounding away on the bass, and the chubby fella chink chink ing the reggie riffs, she sashayed around in a giant hat that looked like it had been designed for a plant to grow up.

Finally, and after a brief interlude where a couple of posh kids threatened to slit the throat of a 4 ft security guard (presumably with a razor sharp platinum card), Massive Attack took the stage. I had been primed for a tremendous entrance, but they just ambled on. There was a bit of dry ice, although not even enough to fill the back of a transit van. I can say this from experience, having once filled a transit van with dry ice. As a backdrop they had an electronic board that was not unlike something you might have seen on an Open University TV program on computers in about 1982, presented by someone who looked like the bass player out of Thievery Corporation. The crowd lapped up whatever it was they played first, Horace Andy came on for the second, and by the third we had made our way to the exit. The babysitter knocks off at 1am you see.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the babysitter was off to see Massive Attack...