ROCK CITY, NOTTINGHAM
So personal it's internal.
Just thought I’d warn you, I don't think white people get Tricky.
Because, whenever they talk of him, they talk of vagueness, confusion, dread, a retreat, a boy from Venus. Like those are good things. I can't see the murk, the ambiguity. He's deﬁnite. His post's inescapable cos it’s mine.
The Specials at age 10, DMC, Cool J, Eric B and Rakim. Public Enemy changed your life. Sending you out in a million directions. The language you’ve been taught is inadequate to express your peculiar alienation. Syntax broken apart by rap to become your created language. Your streets, your city, unmapped by the rest of art. Your city is various overlapping zones of exclusion, lines of fear. Can't go down that street, into that block, in that pub, to that club. A shifting walkway of avoidance, keeping your head down, seething. Tricky maps those streets. He does nothing less than chart the uncharted, black city space and the psyche of its protagonists. And it's all brutally accurate, dead on. The only confusion is in his audience's response. But I can see clearly. It's my problem.
No problem with the stage show tonight. Nigh-on pitch-black, Tricky standing with his back to crowd, caned motions ever-downward. Three-minute LP tracks spun out to 10-minute juggernauts, every sound pumped up to near rupture. "Tricky Kid" becoming two girders of noise, 'Ponderosa' still less the personal indulgence it's portrayed as, more like a second-generation immigrantmanifesto, ya f***as.
has Martine giving even less of a shit about the audience than Tricky,
pretty vacant posture, barely there but holding the song from the
quicksand. "Sex Drive”|
becomes too much remorseless, on and on and on and on and starts to splinter and then what? Nothing. Empty stage. Four songs. Utter darkness. Half an hour later, a return. "Sorry for that. It was a Kit-Kat." Like he’s doing this for our beneﬁt.
"Bad Dreams” is pretty much a head on a plate and that ain’t wishful thinking. Whole genres, metal, post-rock, trip hop, avant-funk are becoming superfluous tonight. This band are live f***ing evil.
Every other music seems too remote, too far removed. This is feeling tapped from the bones and abstracted completely. "Black Steel" is greeted like a show stopper, like a breath of bouncy air: "Here is a land that never gave a damn about a brother like me and myself because they never did." Excising the last three verses leaves it as nothing but a story of oppression; no righteous response, no violent option, no solidarity in a society that aggrandises our isolation every day. Honesty, clarity, speciﬁcs.
Closing on "Vent", looped out into a ferocious coda, 12 minutes short. Only one lyric: 'Can’t hardly breathe' repeated, each word stressed and pressured to near explosive extinction. Vicioust swaying noise, on and on and on again. It's less mind blowing than mind enlivening, bringing the senses to a maximum state of awareness. At which point, you realise that Tricky's the only one doing this, the only one getting close.
Walk out. Blood vessels popping in dilated eye. A reminder of where we are. An inspiration never to lie again.
photo: Stephen Sweet
from: Melody Maker, 1997