Tricky's First American Show in Seven Years Full of Rage, Smoke

September 8, 2008 5:53 PM ET

The one guy in the Fillmore East most blatantly disobeying New York's smoking ordinances also happened to be the one with the most lights pointed at him. For his whole career, Tricky has always assumed one of two positions onstage: two hands tightly gripping the mic on a stand, or with his back to the audience and a joint in his mouth. And for some reason, no one ever gives him any grief for the latter. "It's fucked up, isn't it?" he told Rock Daily. "I never think about it and I never have any problems."

For a man so perpetually stoned, he gave a high-intensity performance bouncing between menace and catharsis at what was his first American show in seven years. Last time through, he opened up for prog-metal heroes Tool on an arena tour, and met with a mostly disinterested crowd and a chorus of boos. "That was a tough crowd, wasn't it?" he said. "I had a great time, though. It was incredible, it was just hard."

Tomorrow sees the release of Knowle West Boy, Tricky's first disc in five years and a refreshing return to form. At the Fillmore, he dove into new songs like the hard-hitting rocker "Council Estate" and "Past Mistake," a stark, Joy Division-meets-Massive Attack slow creeper. Another of the album's tracks, "Joseph," was stretched into a climactic twenty-minute jam to close out the evening, with Tricky visibly seething, trying to hit just the right match of energy and emotion. "When I'm onstage, I get frustrated because I can't do certain things," he said. "I'm not a singer, I'm not a dancer. I have to go for rage, and then it changes my attitude, and my frustration comes out and becomes part of the song. Onstage, it's like a fight. You're fighting to be your best, so you get frustrated, and all these different emotions come out."

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