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Massive Attack calls off Georgia concert amid government protests

Image: Massive Attack

Massive Attack has called off a concert in Georgia in protest against the government’s “attack on basic human rights”.

The British band took to social media to confirm they would not play their planned show in Tblisi in July. The decision comes weeks after an opposition group involved in widespread protests against the Bidzina Ivanishvili regime warned the band that their Black Sea Arena concert risked being used as state propaganda.

Massive Attack, whose hits include Unfinished Sympathy and Teardrop, said it was concerned the concert could be seen as an “endorsement” of the government’s “violent crackdown against peaceful protests and civil society.”

In a statement on X, the band said: “We stand in solidarity with peaceful protestors in Georgia defying state violence and feel that it is their voices that need to be heard and their struggle that needs to be under the international spotlight. We’ll return and perform with you in freedom.”

The decision to cancel the performance at the state-owned Black Sea Arena was first announced by organisers, who claimed that it had been made due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

Massive Attack sides with protests

The Shame Movement, who wrote to Massive Attack in April, are among the groups that have massed outside Georgia’s parliament building in recent months to protest against the so-called foreign agents law. The legislation, seen as pro-Russian and opposed by the US and European Union, obliges organisations with over 20% of their revenues from abroad to register as “organisations serving the interests of a foreign power”.

The government has also introduced a draft law that would prevent same-sex marriages from being registered and ensure that only heterosexual couples could adopt children.

Government supporters have accused the protestors, and pro-Western forces such as President Salome Zurabishvili, of misleading Massive Attack and preventing fans from seeing the band in their country.

“While the Georgian government created an opportunity for the concert of Massive Attack, Salome Zurabishvili and her followers took it away from you,” said Deputy Speaker of Parliament, GD MP Nino Tsilosani.

Artists have also recently pulled out of events in Western countries, with many citing the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A number of artists have withdrawn from the Great Escape, Latitude and Download festivals in the UK because of their links with Barclays Bank, which disputes claims it provides financial services to defence companies supplying Israel.

In March, the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Texas defended its association with the US military and armaments manufacturers after this year’s event was marred by widespread boycotts.