Live Report: Tricky - Rolling Stone
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Live Report: Tricky

Hammerstein Ballroom, New York City, July 21, 1998

Watching Tricky perform is like staring at a lighted match burning
at the base of a gunpowder keg. The fact that the Bristol-born
trip-hop star ends nearly every song by thanking the crowd in a
polite near-whisper only serves to punctuate his formidable
intensity.

Even tonight’s setting, a cavernous and austere metropolitan
ballroom, couldn’t prevent Tricky-along with his live band and
singing divas- from transforming a potentially unforgiving
environment into an experience akin to having a personal headphone
mix. Scalpel-sharp sound and deep red and icy bluelighting added to
the night’s ghostly ambience.

Throughout the show, Tricky alternated between clinging
steadfastly to his mic stand and stalking the stage in a small
circle around it. At times facing forward, at others with his back
to the crowd, he kept his head down, thrashing side to side in
triplets while groaning out his dusty trip-hop vocals in an
monotone growl that begged for attention. Tricky is more drum than
singer-not your traditional beatbox, but a three-piece jazz kit
perpetually dropping beats and rolls into a lush and tranced-out
blend of guitars, bass and synth.

Though on the road in support of his latest release, Angels
With Dirty Faces
, Tricky blended a lot of old tracks with the
new, as well as improvising on extended jams. But more than feeling
like a collection of discrete segments, the entire hour-and-a-half
performance played out like a sonic treaty on love, sex and
madness. And the crowd ate it up, cheering each nuance and
experimental riff.

Throughout the night, Tricky and his two singers-Carmen Ejogo
and Denise Ellington, occupying the slot usually held down by
Martina Topley-Bird- traded somber, soulful vocals with harsh and
staccato jabs. In “Carriage For Two,” Ejogo cooed a lullaby-like
“God bless the child” as Tricky answered back, “I got a little
black girl, and this little black girl’s beautiful!” Other times,
Tricky went it alone, as during his mesmerizing incantation of “She
said she’s mine, I know she lies” from Maxinquaye‘s
“Suffocated Love,” which coursed with restrained anger and grated
like a CD skipping.

An encore performance of that record’s “Pumpkin” proved a
significant departure from the subdued album version as Tricky
panted “I can’t breathe!” like he was recounting a nightmare. Red
lights pulsed a cardiac rhythm as the sound system bellowed like an
army of soldiers marching through the singer’s heart. The
undulating thunder rumbled from one corner of the room to the
other, crossing its own path, moving side-to-side, shooting back
and forth, and pulling the audience into a thundering sound
spiral.

Finally, wringing the last drop from his music-and driving the
crowd to a frenzy in the process-Tricky ended with a highly
energized “Tear Out My Eyes” off of Angels. The lights
went black like a curtain, the crowd called for more, but the
meditation train had come to a stop.

Newswire

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