Concert Review: Massive Attack, May 7th, Sound Academy

Toronto – When Massive Attack last toured Toronto, they played what I thought was the best show of 2006 at the Carlu so it’s fair to say expectations were high heading into Friday night’s show. Dampening those expectations were the fact that the show was taking place at the Sound Academy, a venue I despise. People often (never) ask me why I hate this place so much, so lets list the facts:

1. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Unless you have a car, this place is pretty much a cab it there and cab it back place, adding to the overall cost of the show. It’s practically impossible to get a cab after the show too. Shows at the Sound Academy are never cheap either, so this just makes it an expensive night in general. Well I’m cheap so I guess to me it’s an expensive night.

2. It’s narrow. The Sound Academy basically is a long narrow rectangle, with the stage at the end of a the end of the long part of the rectangle. It becomes super congested at a sold out show, because there is little ways to move left and right, and everyone is always pushing forward. While this long and narrow formation may have worked for Napoleon in war, it’s awful to be anywhere but near the front at Sound Academy.

3. The stage is low. Problem #2 would be less of a problem if the stage was about 5 feet higher, the sight lines are awful since the stage is raised only a few feet above the ground. These two brown girls behind me had to keep on tippy toeing to see the band. Totally felt sorry for them, but I wasn’t gonna offer up my spot..haha.

4. The fire alarm doesn’t know the different between smoke machine and fire. The fire alarm went off at least 3 times during the show, distracting for sure.

Having said all that, the Sound Academy does have a fantastic sound system, so I guess that’s why a band as meticulous as Massive Attack would want to play there.

Originally, I had practically written an essay about the show, but my computer decided to freeze before I could save it and my heart is a bit broken at this point so I’ll just do a capsule of what I wrote.

The light show was fantastic. It was usually synced up to the song and the bars of light dominating the stage gave the band a great visual aspect to the show that only enhanced each song played. Some people might complain that the amount of political text, quotes, anti war/us sentiments and other words showed on the screen during the song might be a distraction, but if you know Massive Attack, you know they aren’t ones to just idly play a show without pushing forward some of their own ideologies. I think most of the crowd was super high anyways, so it was just a collage of colors.

Angel and Safe from Harm were amazing. Angel is one of the best songs you can see live – it’s got an extremely slow , tense buildup. I think it’s one of those songs that best exemplifies dread. As Horace Andy sings the song and it builds to its eventual payoff, the lights grow dimmer and dimmer and then BAM. A blast of light and the wailing guitars. Definitely one of the songs live that you get the chills from. With Shara Nelson long gone, Deborah Miller has definitely made Safe from Harm hers. Her strong pipes lifted this song to epic proportions with an extended outro that featured bass lines so dirty you felt like you should take a shower afterwards.

One of the things I loved about Massive Attack concerts are the extended intros and outros to each song. Most people might write off Massive Attack as trip hoppy chill music, but in a live element, there is nothing chilled about it, it’s an electro-rock spectacle.

The new material sounded decent live, but clearly they were still fleshing it out as a live band and while there were good responses to Splitting the Atom and Atlas Air, Pysche, featuring Martina Topley Bird, got less of a positive response.

Overall, the show was good considering it was at the Sound Academy. 3D, Daddy G and Horace Andy have insane stage presence and Daddy G and Horace Andy definitely come off as two of the coolest cats in the land. It goes without saying that Massive Attack is a must see live.

United Snakes
Girl, I Love You
Future Proof
Invade Me
Safe From Harm
Inertia Creeps

Splitting The Atom
Unfinished Symphony
Atlas Air

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Everything

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.

8 Responses to Concert Review: Massive Attack, May 7th, Sound Academy

  1. Mark

    Let me first talk about the show from a purely musical perspective: bad ass. It was very bad ass. There were definitely some moments. I give the show 4 PM’s.

    Now let me talk about the venue. Words cannot express how much more I hate the Sound Academy now. I got there and had to wait in line for about 15 minutes to get a bottle of water, and the bartender removed the cap! What if I want to recap my water? What if I don’t want to drink it all right now? The Sound Academy reminds me of those “edgefest” concerts we’d go to in High School where they would just fleece you every way they could.

    I repeated the water bottle experiment upstairs in the “VIP section” and again, no cap. What are they so worried about if I get to keep my cap? That I’ll consume water at a safe and respectable meter? The Sound Academy feels like such sleazy downtown club.

    The fire alarm went off at the starting of the show and many times throughout. It was really jarring and much louder upstairs. Unfortunately it was too late at that point to move back to the floor and fight the crowds.

    I give the Sound Academy negative 5 PM’s. It will take a pretty special band to get me out there again; and even that would give me pause.

  2. Denise

    The no cap thing is to prevent you from hurling a full bottle at somebody’s head.
    I agree with all that negative Sound Academy stuff, though. It’s too far away, the parking/cab situation is a total ripoff, the bouncers are braindead, the bartenders and coat check chicks are bitches, and the only reason to go to Sound Academy, EVER, is to see an act. In fact, when an act I like comes to Toronto, I get disappointed if they are playing at Sound Academy, the Molson Amphitheatre, or the ACC. Even shitty Maple Leaf Gardens is better than those dumps.

  3. Pingback: Concert Review: Massive Attack, May 9th, Sound Academy | The Panic Manual

  4. Earl

    although unpleasant and distracting, the fire alarm was not related to the smoke machines. the show went on fine on sunday with the same amount of smoke.

    as mentioned, the removal of caps is a safety issue so that it is not a damaging projectile. these decisions are often made by the promoter as well as the band themselves.

    there are few venues in the city that can fit these mid sized shows. many bands are not big enough for the ACC but too big for the smaller clubs. the venue was not purpose built for shows as it was originally a nightclub. sure, it’s not perfect but it is a means for toronto to get more shows.

    massive attack’s tour of north america is not extensive. we should feel lucky to have them in our city for 2 nights.

  5. Brian

    I suspect the fire alarm on Friday had to do with the mixture of smoke and humidity coming off the ground, a lot of us were soaking wet coming out of the rain.

    Toronto is certainly not alone in being a bit lacking in good venues for mid-sized shows, all the cities I’ve lived in haven’t really had a good one. So I guess there’s some validity in being grateful that there is one at all. That doesn’t mean we can’t criticize, though.

  6. Brian

    And by “ground” I meant “crowd.”

  7. Tom

    Loved the music, but to echo what others have been saying, the Sound Academy is an awful venue.

    I’m glad you noted the layout of the floor. Long and narrow. Such a bad format. Unless you were up at the front, there is no way in hell you were going to get a chance to see the band.

    I started out in the front. So many rude obnoxious people creeping into the inches of personal space I tried to reserve for myself. Having someone waving an umbrella around aimlessly to the music and some girls knotty fro hitting me in the face was less than pleasant.

    The other point I’m not sure if anyone mentioned, was the amount of people talking. Why do you pay $55 (after Ticketmasters bloody convenience charges) to go see a band, only to talk through it. Visit YouTube and lookup the rendition of tear-drop from Friday’s show to see how bad it was. On that note I will say that, that was the only song I disliked (Liz Fraser did it way nicer), and I think the fact that the guitar was experiencing technical difficulties didn’t help.

    Ultimately, the venue really killed this show for me. Between the fire-alarms, the people, and the layout, this really took much of the enjoyment out of saying my favourite band. *sigh*

    The Carlu was SUCH a better show, all aspects considered.

  8. dead daisy

    Hello!I am going to see Massive Attack on the 15th July,in Sofia and I can’t wait.
    Could somebody please let me know how long the concert is approximately,because I need to think of a way to get back home after it.I will really appreciate it.

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