This summer, he canceled a show at the last minute. Saturday night, he walked off midset. Tricky's trying to live up to his name or he's taking the piss out of Seattle audiences, but either way he's not making any new friends here.
DV8, Saturday, December 5
Nearing the end of a monthlong tour, the gravelly-voiced rapper/singer/band leader sauntered onto the darkened stage at DV8 with what appeared to be the best intentions. A bass reverberated throughout the warehouse-like club, blue lights accented fluorescent designs on the band members' faces, and minutes into the first song Tricky was clutching the mike as though demons were threatening to take it away. His shaved head thrusting from side to side, his body trembling, Tricky instantly reached repeated crescendoes; if he could have maintained this intensity, there would have been a nice view of the Space Needle when the roof blew off.
But a Tricky show relies on a balance between the noisy rock/hip-hop hybrid he rambles along to and the more subtle dub and soul shadings to which his comely counterweight Martina lends her voice. When they sing together, the effect—and the music—can be chilling. "Christiansands," the second track on the '96 album Pre-Millennium Tension and the second song of the night at DV8, wraps a bubbling guitar hook and introverted rhythm around Tricky's barrage of philosophical questions, which sound all the more menacing backed by Martina's mildly accusatory yet alluring harmonic shadows.
But the performance derailed soon after. Martina's recitation of excerpts from Blondie's "Heart of Glass" seemed overly coy, and Tricky topped off each verse with a jarring freestyle rant. The two didn't need such devices to evoke their trademark sound on albums like Maxinquaye and
Tension, but the reason for this tour—this year's Angels with Dirty Faces—only occasionally achieved those records' distinctively dark aesthetic.
Live, the moments were even more fleeting. After devolving into a series of loud, repetitive riffs and what began to sound like staccato barking, Tricky and friends shredded any trace of the nuance they'd established early on. At times, as on the manic, paranoid "The Moment I Feared," they weren't stylistically far off from Rage Against the Machine. Whether inspired by rage, tension, or chicanery, Tricky stepped to the mike a few bars into about the 10th song and abruptly announced, "We're having trouble with the sound onstage. Thank you, good night." At least he was polite.