On Blackheath is the first John Lewis sponsored festival, and you can see the homestores influence; helium filled children’s balloons float above our heads while not a single nos canister is to be seen littering the floor. The adverts tell us only of our favourite chefs serving three course meals all day, and there is a definite air of civility surrounding the South London common.
Headlining this classy event was Massive Attack who storm the stage. The sound quality was impeccable, as you may well expect from John Lewis, with deep immersive bass lines and crisp voices. With such a shining back catalogue of songs to choose from, the Bristol group played managed to fit in a good deal of their album 2010 Heligoland accompanied by ska legend Horace Andy and the stunning voice of Martina Topley-Bird, as well as all the obvious earlier favourites – Angel and Teardrop. The beloved unfinished sympathy created a breathtaking finale, Deborah Miller’s astonishing voice soaring above the crowd. Cherry bomb was a highlight, and the only one from their really hip-hoppy phase, while Safe from harm’s vocals caused a collective shiver through the crowd.
The projections behind picked up into a pretty tough political message, flashing between hilarious adn worrying pixelated Daily Mail style headlines to the much darker logs of soldiers’ conversation. Inertia Creeps brought with it warnings of privacy as the ominous internet-age looked over the stage, while traditional Tony Blair hate showed the band have kept their rebellious spirit. Imaginative messages on the screens gave way to lasers – beautiful sheets and intricately woven lattices in a mesmerising light show.
I’d heard mixed reviews of festival appearances in previous years, but here everyone was at the top of their game, energetic and with an air of confident perfection that comes from so many years of experience as a powerhouse of anthems and experimental trip hop. Massive Attack are a force to be reckoned with.