The first day of the OnBlackheath Festival couldn’t have asked for a better line up to start with. On its debut year, the music and food festival located on the hill of Greenwich saw a succession of several acts all day until, when the sun went down, it was time for one of the most influential female pioneers in the music industry, who – way long before Lady GaGa and Madonna – defied every possible conventional rule with her rebelliousness and her indisputable talent: Grace Jones, now 66, the controversial model whose voice range spans two-and-a-half octaves, walked on stage at 7 pm in her trademark black sunglasses and short haircut, sporting that kind of fit physique any girl in her 20s would kill for.
Besides her incredibly elegant stage presence, the Jamaican singer from New York kept a sense of humour and self-irony that many of today’s so called pop-stars should seriously take in consideration. From her covers of Libertango to La Vie En Rose, Jones went down the numerous classics that made her an idol to millions, alternating several changes of costumes and performing the whole duration of hit Slave To The Rhythm hula-hooping as easy as drinking water. Even though at times her voice didn’t sound as crystal clear as it used to be, Grace Jones delivered pure entertainment and fun without ever sounding exaggerated.
A one-hour show from Grace Jones already feels like an extremely entertaining night, unless you know Massive Attack are just around the corner, ready to turn the night into something unreal.
The legendary Bristol (now)duo opened with a series of hypnotising pieces, Battle Box 001 and United Snakes pulsating all over the Greenwich hill while hundreds of very-well-known logos were being rapidly displayed on the screens behind. The band’s political activism and fierce opposition to the government policies of UK and USA is no news, so, far from being just a live music show, this promised to be another ‘massive attack’ to the global system and oil wars that kill hundreds every day. And it was. Virtually every song was a pretext to display numbers of refugees and casualties in Lebanon and Palestine, or to focus on the psychic alienation today’s society is living through social medias and internet (“xanax” apparently being one of the most searched words, as showed on the screens during the song Psyche).
Joined on stage by an army of exceptionally skilled musicians and vocalists – especially guitarist Angelo Bruschini and singer Horace Andy who delighted the audience with an overwhelming version of Angel – Massive Attack’s performance was a political statement as much as it was a cascade of powerful sounds, hypnotising throbs, gloomy basses and vibrating melodies that climaxed in the encore finale with the intensely emotional Unfinished Sympathy, perfectly performed by the astonishing vocals of Deborah Miller.
If the adage a good beginning bodes well is true, OnBlackheath promises to be(come) one of London’s most interesting festivals for music enthusiasts, while we thank them for bringing the exceptional talents of Massive Attack and many others to the 2014 edition.
Massive Attack Complete Set List:
Battle Box 001
Girl I Love You
Psyche (Flash Treatment)
Safe From Harm
Splitting the Atom