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Tricky kicked off his tour at Le Poisson Rouge (pics)

words & photos by Benjamin Lozovsky

Tricky

Slow, moody creatures don’t usually survive very long in the wild, but Trip-hop is one now seemingly prehistoric beast that’s still chugging along, ignoring strict evolutionary guidelines for idiosyncratic music. Massive Attack have been a touring success with multiple recent stops in NYC, Portishead is curating an ATP event next year and is setting its sites on our shores as well, and even Cibo Matto briefly reunited earlier this week.

And then there’s Tricky. He’s probably strayed from the genre’s MO more than any other trip hop pioneer on his recent work, and at Le Poisson Rouge last night (12/9), during the first show of a tour that includes two two New York performances, it felt more like a turbulent garage show than a chilled out séance. Tricky’s music always had a passive aggressive restraint simmering in the down-tempo beats and his hushed but strained mumble. Besides the mumble, most of that distinctiveness was traded in for a full sounding but fairly direct rock sound. Thick, unfettered bass lines and powerful but unornamented drumming below a repetitive guitar line was his live band’s blueprint, and at times the ensemble kept to those structural plans too rigidly.

On new numbers like “Murder Weapon,” with an iconic 60’s espionage groove, or “Kingston Logic,” with a sing-speak female rap lead that veered towards Black Eyed Peas homogeneity, some of Tricky’s enigmatic and tortured ethos was lost. While enjoyable as simplistic songs to push around to, they lacked the depth and fuming temper of Tricky’s strongest material.

When Tricky did call in the atmospherics and rising synths, dubbed-out stuttering drums, and jazzy brass samples, the immediacy of his new rock core finally congealed with the quintessential mystery and spatial dimension that you expect from him. And the guy is still a still a marvel to watch. Constantly wandering the stage, shirtless, chain smoking, pointing cues sharply and sometimes errantly at his musicians, pounding the mic to his heart; it’s a great and confounding visual. He’s part hype-man, part anarchist, part Miles Davis circa Bitch’s Brew, and once in a while a rapper too. Twice he almost shut the club down by bringing the audience on stage, the first time half way through his set. Maybe this punk aggression is his newest form of therapy. If so it’s working. Beaming a giant smile surrounded by his supporters, he seemed like he finally got the weight off his chest.

He closed the night walking through the crowd hugging and shaking hands with fans. Don’t miss him tonight (12/10) at Brooklyn Bowl, part of an ongoing tour. More pictures from the intimate Le Poisson Rouge show, below…

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