There's no one quite like Massive Attack. The band's meandering, perpetually evolving catalogue exists in a universe of its own, exploring hitherto unknown facets of bass culture.
Invited to open this year's Barclaycard presents British Summertime, the Bristol group face up to one of their biggest ever headline shows: London's enormous Hyde Park. Preceded by sets from Loyle Carner, Ghostpoet, TV On The Radio, and Patti Smith, the day's energy energy builds toward one conclusion.
Opening with earth-shuddering, spine-realigning mountains of sub-low frequencies, Massive Attack seem to use the opening instrumental 'United Snakes' as a testing ground, allowing the system to settle and fans to explore their bass eco-system.
It's political from the off. Massive Attack's light show utilises flags from around the whole, re-iterating a common theme throughout their career: we are all one. 3D vocalises this, telling the crowd of his despair at the EU referendum result, urging them to work together to build something better, something of more worth.
'Rising Son' and 'Future Proof' follow, before a rare outing for 'Eurochild'. The set is dominated by guests, collaborators, and fellow spirits, with Azakel vocalising 'Ritual Spirit' and TV On The Radio's Tunde Adebimpe joining the band for a lengthy, meditative 'Pray For Rain'.
Reggae icon Horace Andy may well be wheelchair bound due to a leg injury, but his fabled upper register tones don't disappoint, lending an eerie, mournful air to 'Angel'. The set is billed as a union of Massive Attack and Young Fathers, uniting two quite distinct forces bonded by common aims and mutual influences. It's left to the Scottish group's G Hastings to deliver the night's most forceful quote, introducing 'Shame' as: “This one's for Michael Gove and Boris Johnson... lying bastards!”
The events of the past week, the stirring of darker forces within the national consciousness and the economic uncertainty that each of us face perhaps makes the group's paranoid elements more relevant than ever before. 'Inertia Creeps' seems to crawl across your skin, before the unmistakeable presence of Tricky emerges onstage.
The Bristol rapper was initially part of Massive Attack's crew, before departing in somewhat acrimonious circumstances. The bond has been mended, however, and this is Tricky's first British show with the collective. It's a simple, unannounced, re-connection – 'Take It There' though, has rarely sounded better.
Finishing with an epic, crunching version of 'Safe From Harm', there's then a short delay before Massive Attack haul an entire orchestra onstage with them. Deborah Miller takes the lead for 'Unfinished Sympathy', a song indelibly tied with political and social upheavel. Released shortly after the first Gulf War, the video was famously short just a few weeks before the Los Angeles riots of 1991 erupted. Here, though, it takes on a healing tone, a peaceful, spiritual air, that perfectly closes an emphatic return from a truly magical group.