Tricky @ The Forum, Melbourne (16/02/2011)
Wed 23rd Feb, 2011 Event Reviews 174 viewsin
Tricky has been through many phases in his long and varied career. He started out as Tricky Kid in the Bristol-based collective, The Wild Bunch. This group also featured future members of Massive Attack: Daddy G, 3D, and Mushroom. He then went on to collaborate with Massive Attack on their first two classic albums, Blue Lines and Protection.
With his first solo release Maxinquaye, he produced an album which was almost universally acclaimed. He quickly followed up with the collaborative project Nearly God, which was also quite successful. Perhaps in an attempt to break with the latte-drinking set, the albums which followed have sometimes provided more of a difficult listen, but have always been rewarding with repeated listens.
His latest album Mixed Race is a spare, yet more immediate effort than some of his previous albums, and also a big return to form in my opinion. So heading to The Forum on in almost monsoonal conditions last Wednesday evening, I was quite looking forward to seeing this translated into a live setting.
Kicking off the evening was DJ Thief and Eliza Wolfgramm. Theirs was an interesting set-up; Wolfgramm singing more pop-oriented pop covers such as Beyonce’s Work It Out over Thief’s selection of bass-heavy breaks. The performance was a little tentative, not helped by the fact that the crowd were still filing in at this point. As Thief & Wolfgramm left the stage, a remix of Massive Attack’s Teardrop boomed out of the speakers. Interesting choice, given who was the main act for the evening.
Tricky and co. arrived onstage to an instrumental version of You Don’t Wanna. The pulsating synths were very reminiscent of a slowed-down version of The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams. Time seemingly stretched on forever as Tricky had his back to the audience, keeping us in suspense. His lean, sinewy body moved to the rhythms in a primal fashion, before jumping into a moody performance of Really Real, from recent release Mixed Race.
The sudden and, familiar introduction to his classic cover of Public Enemy’s Black Steel, certainly got the crowd moving. They quickly followed with an inventive and sexy cover of The Cure’s Love Cats. Tricky’s raspy, lustful voice, paired with Francesca Riley’s more sultry vocals, at times managed to capture that same electricity he shared with his former muse Martina Topley-Bird.
The show, at times, was a tad disjointed. Tricky and band switched between quiet trip-hop jams to covering Motorhead’s The Ace of Spades! Perhaps in an attempt to shake the slightly conservative Wednesday night crowd into action, Tricky got a few dozen members of the crowd onstage for a bit of a mosh. Great idea in theory, but it went on a tad long, and left some of the audience shrugging their shoulders and looking at each other in confusion. Then again, this is Tricky, and clearly the man wants to give us a dose of the unexpected.
The rest of the performance was a bit of a patchy affair, infused with moments of brilliance. The highlights would have to be his Jamaican-influenced rework of Daft Punk, Kingston Logic, to the blissed-out ambience of Pumpkin, Riley channelling the spirit of Alison Goldfrapp almost perfectly. Closing the set proper with a perhaps slightly overlong version of Vent, he quickly came back for a more exuberant encore performance of recent single Ghetto Stars. Bringing the crowd back up onstage, Tricky gradually disappeared into the huddle.
After the crowd had dispersed, Tricky was nowhere to be seen, leaving the band to play on alone. A suitably strange ending perhaps, for an at times odd performance. In Tricky’s defence, he is more of a producer and arranger than a musician, so clearly he is content to take the back seat throughout much of the performance. Keeping this in mind, I still felt the show was a bit lacklustre – and maybe under such a seasoned performer’s capabilities.