Alison and I had the immense pleasure of attending the Adam Curtis VS Massive Attack event at the NYC Park Avenue Armory. The photos you see here were stolen from a various locales on the wold wide interwebz.

Adam Curtis is a British documentary film maker known for his political treatises illuminating the ills of modern society, media, politics, and culture. He’s perhaps best known for his 1992 debut “Pandora’s Box” and his 2002 “Century of the Self”, a damnation of advertising and public relations as it relates to Freud.


The airplane hanger sized space of the Armory had been emptied and ringed with massive projection screens. Massive Attack was there in full force, set up behind the screens on the western end of the room. At times they were completely obscured by imagery. Other times creative lighting would bring some or all members to the forefront. Sometimes singers would appear in a small halo against a film backdrop, other times they’d be singing at the foot oaf a massive projection of themselves. It was beautifully surreal and kept the packed house enraptured for the duration of the show.


In addition to providing a lot of instrumental work to support the mostly graphic and news footage messaging of the film, the band played lots of covers. My favorites being Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” – a song that sort of magically appeared in my life as a recurring theme in the last 3 years. First via Neneh Cherry’s version. Then via the amazing Bruce Springsteen live version that I discovered. Then all of a sudden Massive Attack was playing it. It was wonderful. Here’s the entire set list:

Baby It’s You (Shirelles cover) with Horace Andy on vocals
The Look of Love (Dusty Springfield cover) with Elizabeth Fraser on vocals
Everything is Going According to Plan (Grazhdanskaya Oborona cover)
My Sadness Is Luminous (Yanka Dyagileva cover) with Elizabeth Fraser
Dream Baby Dream (Suicide cover)
My Coloring Book (Barbra Streisand cover) with Elizabeth Fraser
Just Like Honey (The Jesus and Mary Chain cover)
Where Did You Sleep Last Night 
(Lead Belly cover) (with both Kurt Cobain & Leadbelly vocals digitally slipped in)
Sugar, Sugar (The Archies cover) with Horace Andy (YES. THE ARCHIES.)
Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Bauhaus cover)
Dream Baby Dream (played twice)
My Sadness Is Luminous (Yanka Dyagileva cover) with Elizabeth Fraser
Everything is Going According to Plan

Just being in the same room with reggae legend Horace Andy gives me chills. He’s like the rockers Roy Orbison. Nobody sounds like him. Nobody has a voice quite as haunting.


As for the film itself, it was long. But it wove a very interesting narrative connecting seemingly disparate events from the last half century. Chernobyl. Ceaucescu. Hamid Karzai. The Financial collapse. Ted Turner. Siberian punk rockers. Donald Trump – to name a few.

The film slowly built a case for a global theme of abandoning the hope of a better tomorrow that was so alive in the 1950s, and replacing it with a new goal of simply managing humanity and keeping them essentially static and powerless. As if to say: we all can now see that future is quite grim, so the only task is just keeping a world aware of this from boiling over.


The prevalence of zombie films was one example of how we as a culture no longer make movies about a future where life is actually better. Hollywood’s futurescapes are now dystopian at best, and usually just straight up apocalypse scenarios devoid of all hope.

Jane Fonda was presented as a prime example of a counter culture figure who once fought for a better tomorrow, but forsook all of that to encourage women simply to focus on the self – the ass and thighs specifically; managing the present and wallowing in shallowness rather than believing in something truly better for mankind as a whole.


Even with weird leaps of association, it was a pretty convincing message. It was also pretty depressing. That said, Curtis does end on a hopeful challenge to the audience to reverse this tide. So, there’s that. I think most people just wanted a stiff drink and a safe hiding place from the teeming hordes of the impoverished who any day now may get sick and tired of their damnation and begin eating the rich. Time to buy a gun or ten.

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