THERE are no compromises. Instead, there is anal sex, cocaine psychosis
and shaking paranoia... and that's jist the first haff an hour. You will
then be frogmarched up a terrifyinly steep slope and asked to take a long
hard look at the precipe below. Only once this has been achieved will you
be allowed to leave the auditorium. 'Maxinquaye' will be largely ignored.
Do not, however, feel nervous about this prospect, because it will be perversley enjoyable. Such is the stealth and skill of your guide, you will have reached the summit before you know where you are. Tricky realises this will a gruelling trek, but asks you to trust him.
You have your doubts. Five minutes in, and the atmosphere is less pre-millenial tension than mid-evening relaxation: 40 minutes ago, Tricky was asleep on his hotel roomm, and it certainly shows. 'Ponderosa' and 'Christiansands' serve merely as warm-ups; a chance for Tricky to agitate his psyche to an appropiate level of unrest.
He lights one cigarette after another, he wanders nervously offstage and reappears shaking. In virtual darkness, he hunches, attempting to concentrate because he has to be in the rigt state of mind. To his left, Martina undertakes a more serene ritual. Cocooned in her own thoughts, she simply pads from foot to foot waiting patiently for Tricky to lead the way forward.
Finally, midway though 'Sex Drive', it happens. Amid the increasing velocity, distended noise and dense rhythms, Tricky finally snaps and the atmosphere changes. He's animated now: shadow boxing, throwing punches and running on the spot. Tricky is enjoying himself.
That's because he knows what's coming: a huge section of songs from his new album, a huge section of incredibly bleak, f---ed up songs that no-one's here heard. Yeag, this is going to be a chanellnge, and the only way to meet a challenge is head on. Tricky knows what he's doing, and it amuses him. To stay with him will require immense
strong stomach and a keen desire to feel insane. It's going to be a test
You see, what Tricky has planned is chaos. There is total darkness, metal shrieking and smothering beats. There are a series of songs full of yelped references to "coke up the nose" and "paranoia": the babbling Messiah-complex of 'Tricky Kid', the dulcet hatred of 'Makes Me Wanna Die' and a menacing threat to, "F--- you up the arse" ('Abbaon'). And frankly, it doesn't get much more entertaning than that, does it? Especially, as Tricky just keeps on pushing us up that hill. He doesn't allow us any respite, any space to recover. He just careers into another 15 minutes of claustrophobia, metallic clanking and punishing feedback. And just when you thought it couldn't get any more unsettling, Tricky remembers another song from his new album that he hasn't played yet. Inevitably it's a song that's sicker and noisier than the one before.
It's strange, then, that the atmosphere throughout remains so freindly. We're in Amsterdam and perfectly situated, therefore, to understand a spot of dope-fuelled lunacy abd Tricky. And it shows because these people are actually dancing to his new songs. They aren't perplexed by anything - not even his final, furious attempt to better his past. The verbal battery of 'Lyrics Of Fury' is followed by the crawling disgust of 'Bad Dream', before Tricky finally disappears with a Ramones-style punk thrash.
He's taken you to the edge without you even realising it. He's happy with your response because you haven't run away. In fact, you actually preferred his new songs. As a reward, he'll slope you through 'Hell Is Round The Corner' and 'Feed Me' to remind you of what used to be. Be warned though, by the time he arrives in London, he plans to have give New! songs in his arsenal. Trikcy is adamant only the strongest will survive. Now might be a good time to start preparing.
photo: Ian Jennings