Rocking and bobbing like a bantamweight before he enters the ring, Bristolian trip-hop pioneer Tricky sets the tone for the night by standing centre stage with his back to the audience. For 50 percent of tonight’s show Tricky doesn’t even hold a microphone, which incidentally is swapped around by stage hands like most rock bands switch guitars.
Instead Tricky channels the music to the audience. The crowd react to a topless Tricky’s every move, like a classical conductor with a heavy dose of physical narcissism. At the same time he directs his band mates with a series of bouncing dance moves, violent head shakes and climbing arm movements. The band purposely build a song up sonically, let Tricky decide when was a good time to break it down again and then go about deliberately rebuilding it. A bombastic formula, with some tracks veering towards cocktail-lounge blues. However, when he does take the mic his vocal style being indistinguishably idiosyncratic, is raspy, dark, murky ‘¦ and utterly moving.
But for the most part it is Danish vocalist Kira Skov that takes the lead. Her whispered tones on Maxinquaye‘s -Pumpkin’ do the song particular justice, an unexpected nostalgic trip back to 1995, while she delivers a powerful bluesy vocal on Knowle West Boy‘s -Puppy Toy’. The pair duet on The Cure’s -Love Cats’, merging textured vocals over wandering synth sounds. Skov performs a brilliant version of -Black Steel’ yet still Tricky didn’t ‘switch on’ or indeed ‘switch off’. Instead he parades the stage puffing on a bifta/fag. Picture him giving a damn? I say never.
Tricky steps up to the mark when he takes charge of the punky -Council Estate’, lead single off Knowle West Boy, delivering a chaotic rendition rippling anarchy into the crowd. This is music for a jilted generation. -Vent’ has a basic blues riff that turns into pounding rock as Tricky howls and snorts, ‘I can hardly breathe!’.
Closing the 45-minute set with majestic Maxinquaye classic -Overcome’, the main man exits the stage immediately. The encore includes a garage rock version of -Tricky Kid’ off Pre-Millenium Tension. A 12 – 15 minute version of -Joseph’, with waves of crescendos that moved toward pounding beats and major chords as Tricky declaims, ‘You’re so special’.
Tricky relies heavily on his much-adored presence and subsequently on his band. He finishes the night he disappearing into the moshing, spiralling and frenzied crowd as the band blast out Motorhead’s -Ace of Spades’.
Photos by Loreana Rushe.