Tricky’s live show is as trim as the Bristolian MC’s physique. There’s hardly any banter with the crowd or any sort of posturing, and his backing band barrels through song after song almost without a break. Like his music, the stage is dark and moody, and the spotlight never singles him out. Last night’s show at Irving Plaza was in support of Tricky’s eighth solo album, Knowle West Boy, and it had a few flaws.
The show began with Phil Collins’ “In the Air” blasting through the club’s PA while the stage was dark and absent of the man of the hour. As the song finished, Tricky and his crew took the stage and tore through a set that consisted of tracks from the new album. Curiously, he dove into one of KWB’s most somber songs, “Past Mistake,” early in his set, as he sang along with a female singer (who had decent singing chops but can’t dance to save her life). It seemed that uptempo numbers like “Puppy Toy” are indeed his newly found forte, and he appeared to be in a trance while spitting his lyrics. A Jamaican MC joined Tricky on stage to perform a cut from the new album, but it was far from the brilliant cameo his colleagues in Massive Attack typically muster up. Tricky continued his back-and-forth with his female vocalist, though much of it seemed too dramatic after a while.
The real stinker of the night was an awful cover of XTC’s “Dear God,” which appeared on 2003’s mostly dismal release, Vulnerable. Despite the night’s flaws, Tricky’s new material is some of his best work in a decade; perhaps more shows with his hired hands will help the music evolve in an organic manner. In terms of his performance, however, he’s hardly selfish: Tricky might be a superstar in some circles, but he seems completely open sharing his stage with anyone who’s on his vibe.
Words & images: Darren Ressler