It’s not to often that you’re going to find Russian Punks, Donald Trump, Liz Fraser, Goldman Sachs economist Fischer Black and the Yakuza all contributing to an evening’s entertainment but Massive Attack v Adam Curtis pulls off this trick in some style.
The multi-media event at Park Avenue Armory is one of the most thought-provoking shows I’ve seen in the last few years and even if you don’t agree with the essential premise from film maker Adam Curtis, that people in the western world have given up on the idea of progress, you can be suitably impressed by the style in which the argument is presented.
Huge screens surrounded the standing crowd on three sides, on to these screens a documentary collage was then projected, with the story accompanied by narration and the sound of Massive Attack and Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins fame (and of course the voice on ‘Teardrop’, the track which opened the series ‘House’ for several years)
Images of Nikolai Ceausecu and his wife being bound before execution and workers climbing through the ruins of Chernobyl days after the reactor meltdown are disturbing but it is the originality of some of the stories that make up the narrative that really pull us in.
For example, at one point we are told of Mathematician Jess Marcum, who was famed for his card counting system.
One day Donald Trump calls him. A wealthy Japanese gambler is cleaning out one of his casinos and Trump is looking for someone who knows how to stop his winning streak.
Marcum is flown to the casino and calculates that if they can get the whale to play one particular game the odds are that he will lose everything. Which is exactly what happens.
The final sting in the tail is that the gambler is then hacked to death by Yakuza gangsters probably due to his inability to pay them back.
Massive Attack beautifully underscores the action, popping up to play cover versions of tracks by Ledbelly and Burt Bacharach as well as their own ‘Karmacoma’
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay the whole spectacle was that long after it had finished you continued to think about it.
Maybe society has given up on the future but Massive Attack and Adam Curtis remain alive to its possibilities