December 21, 2010
@ The Independent
Better than: Sitting around, listening to the albums at home.
Despite the crappy weather, the familiar inconvenience of attempting to find parking near The Independent, and the fact that it was the Tuesday before Christmas, it was definitely worth turning out to see Tricky last night.
Particularly if you were a Brit, of which there were many in the crowd. In fact, Tricky pulled in just about the most diverse crowd ever seen at The Independent, where shows often draw very specific demographics depending on the genre. Then again, what the hell is Tricky's genre anyway? Trip hop is about the best description available, but may conjure up visions of a more somber, Perished-like sound that bears only a vague family resemblance to Tricky's weird, layered, complicated blend of musical styles.
There was a lot of rock mixed into last night's show, and even some hints of punk (not too surprising from a guy who once covered Siouxsie and the Banshees). In fact, the first real hint of what kind of show it was going to be came during a cover of "Ace of Spades," during which Tricky began beckoning members of the audience to get up on stage with him. Now, lots of bands do that, particularly as a way to lure pretty girls on to the stage. But Tricky did it with everyone. No joke - by the end of the song, he had most of the first few rows up there with him, which was a particularly funny thing to witness given how tiny the stage at The Independent is.
It wasn't to be the last time Tricky would insist on pulling the audience into the show in the most direct manner possible. Does he get lonely up there? Did he just want people to dance with? Has his youthful bad-assery evaporated, leaving a guy who just really wants to give the crowd a big hug?
More on that later, but first, the show: It's rare to find acts with a heavily produced sound that can even approximate their recorded dynamics live, but Tricky pulled it off. It wasn't identical to his records, of course - for one thing, he's used a lot of different female vocalists over the years, and the show featured only Francesca Belmont. But Frankie was all that was needed - how such a small woman can produce such a rich vocal sound is a mystery, but god damn, she can sing. Tricky let her handle most of the vocal responsibilities, leaving him free to serve as a sort of master of ceremonies, directing the proceedings as well as participating in them.
Whenever he did take the mic, though, the crowd loved it. He's a compelling performer, Tricky - in spite of the mellow, chilled-out vibe a lot of his music has, there's a certain tension about the man himself, an intensity that makes him fascinating to watch. The impressive physique helps, of course, but it's the personality that really draws people in, as well as the ability to slice and mix and blend disparate musical styles into a sound that's uniquely his own.
The encore featured yet another example of Tricky's odd compulsion to get as much of the audience as possible up on stage with him. It got even better, though - after they just couldn't cram any more people on the stage despite everyone's best efforts, Tricky hopped down off the front of it and wandered into the crowd. Apparently he was heading for the bar, since that's where he ended up, but on his meandering way he stopped to talk to and often hug just about every fan that crossed his path. It was a charming sight to watch from up in the balcony, and seemed fitting, given the overall mood of the show - warm, friendly, relaxed, and totally unpretentious. Tricky clearly knows that he's hot shit, musically speaking, but he's yet to become too up-his-own-ass about it. Long may his relative lack of annoying superstar ego continue.
Personal bias: After many years living in London, trip-hop feels like home to me, and I miss it. So this show was bound to feel like a trip home to see the folks - appropriate, since it's Christmas and all.
The crowd: Mixed in every possible sense other than personality - almost everyone was pleasantly laid back and seemingly happy to be there.
Overheard in the crowd: "Come on, Tricky, do something!" What in particular the gentleman in question was hoping for he left unspecified. Maybe that's what prompted the wander through the crowd and the random hugging?
Random notebook dump: Tricky's muscle tone scares me, and I mean that as a compliment. The man is over 40 - how is he still so buff? My abs wince in sympathy at the thought of how many daily crunches that must require.
Did you know?: Let's hope the band's tour bus is comfortable - they were stuck in it for more than a day last week as a result of some particularly awful weather in Ontario, Canada. Oh, the joys of touring.