Massive Attack were the first band to curate Meltdown, and as founding member Robert del Naja (alias 3D) put it; it was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. Whilst curating may have been a one-off, performing at their own Meltdown was more specifically a twice in a lifetime opportunity, as the band chose to bookend their 2008 festival themselves with two distinct live performances.
Curating a Meltdown festival is no easy feat, and del Naja was well aware of the pressure of following in the footsteps of the likes of Nick Cave, Patti Smith and David Bowie. ‘Yeah, it's every boy's treat but it comes with a price,’ he told Phil Johnson of The Independent. ‘You're following up a lot of really great curators and you don't want to be the first to fuck it up.’
Unsurprisingly Massive Attack’s Meltdown line-up reflected their broad stretch of influences. There were musical pioneers, with performances from our 2021 curator Grace Jones, Terry Callier, Horace Andy and George Clinton. Elbow and Fleet Foxes, rubbed up against the punk and post-punk of Stiff Little Fingers and Gang of Four. And there was a first UK live show since 1980 from the original line-up of Tokyo’s ‘technopop’ pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra.
But there were also appearances from artists yet to make it big, including Aloe Blacc, two years before his track ‘I Need A Dollar’ would catapult him to international fame. And very much fulfilling the brief of ‘mixing it up’ was a special performance of Vangelis' Blade Runner by Heritage Orchestra mixed live by Massive Attack.
‘With Meltdown,’ wrote Johnson in The Independent, ‘[Massive Attack] get the chance to curate on a scale previously undreamed of. Their wide-ranging programme also hangs together unusually well.’ And you can join us in enjoying just how well it came together by listening to this playlist of artists from that 15th edition of Meltdown. It really was a party few others could have thrown better.
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