Playlist: Massive Attack’s Meltdown

Friday, June 19, 2020 - 13:49

‘Theirs is a world where psychedelia and punk align, where sensual sophistication and urban grit share equal ground,’ said Glenn Max, our then producer of contemporary culture upon the announcement of Massive Attack as curators of the 15th edition of Meltdown festival. ‘All this would be enough, but equally important...’ he added, ‘few artists could throw a better party.’

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. 


Massive Attack - Inertia Creeps (Live - Meltdown Festival 2008)


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.’


Our aim is to mix it up a bit by instigating collaborations that make sense and probably some that don't
Massive Attack on the announcement of their curation

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.


Vangelis' Blade Runner performed by Heritage Orchestra Massive Attack Meltdown Fest 2008 edit


‘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.



The show must go on(line)

Sadly, for everyone’s safety, our venues are currently closed. But you can still get your Southbank Centre fix online. We will continue to share inspiring and thought-provoking arts stories through our website and social channels.

follow us on Twitter
follow us on Facebook
follow us on Instagram

As a charity, we rely on ticket sales for a huge chunk of our income. But now they’ve stopped. And it's a huge worry to us, and the people we work with. We all need the escape of art and culture; it can inspire and unite us. So please – if you can afford to – consider a donation to the Southbank Centre today, to help us be there for you in the future.

listen to more meltdown playlists