|London Clapham Grand|
|So, Tricky Kid,
no more Mister Nice Guy, huh? From the embarrassed little tyke who shuffled
through his last London show supporting Polly Harvey, Tricky emerges tonight
a revived man. He plays brilliant new songs. He throws a few improvised
shoulder pops into his funny bosing dance. He smokes live spliff and cracks
gags, of sorts.
"Dog?" he asks of a stage-side fan. "Yeah, I am a dog, actually. Right, right. Big dog, that's me. Dog. Woof!"
Nervous laughter rolls around the upper tiers of the Grand while downstairs a few hardy souls bark back at the mad hound onstage. Tricky, his face smeared enthusiastically with silver eyeliner, is having a ball because for the first time the other star of his how has turned up for a live performance and the difference is startling.
Yes, Martine's in the house, standing in the same spot, stage left, where Alison Goldfrapp grappled professionally but unconvincingly with the bulk of the 'Maxinquaye' album last time round (a fact illustrated when Tricky almost forgets to mention Alison during his group introduction later on in the evening: "Oh yeah, can't forget Alison backstage... I suppose," he sneers.
And Tricky's made up that his intended foil is here, lighting Martine's
fags for her and aiming the occasional playful punch in her direction.
She, meanwhile, shoots sideways smiles at the little scamp like a benevolent
older sister (even though she's considerably his junior) and simply concentrates
on singing beautifully. If this is her debut live show with Tricky, then
the laid-back confidence she exudes right from the spiky opening 'Ponderosa'
It serves as a potent reminder that while so many fight to shell out for the songwriting and production skills of Tricky in the glorious light of his album, much of its success was due to the rivetting vocal balance between Tricky's wicked muttering and Martine's delicate stream-of-consciousness murmur.
Tonight they delve deep to rekindle the magic of the LP and even manage to make their haggard, music backing group look a little less elderly.
But it's not just another run-through for the recognisable material. Tonight also sees the unveiling of Tricky's much-rumoured Durban Poison project and it would appear to hold equally rich and varied treats as 'Maxinquaye'.
'Children's story', but from the same both as 'Black Steel' (which is run
ragged towards the end of the set), flies by in a blur of scratching, spiralling
guitars, while Stereo MC's singer Cath Coffey joins Tricky for a moving,
as yet untitled torch song - opening bawled line: "The first 100 years
are the toughest!"
The best of the new bunch is unveiled fittingly at the end of the set, though, when Goldfrapp joins Tricky and Martina for a deep, bluesy funk called 'I Dig Dis'. Its effect is so moving that even Tricky forgets his place in the set and announces the next song - even though his band and sidekicks have all quit the stage. He spins around, shrugs and exits from the stage adjusting his flies.
Minutes later he's back for an immaculate burst of 'Brand New (You're Retro)'. "That's what you're meant to do at gigs and that,", he says, tugging at another joint. "You know, I just did it to keep you all guessing. It's my stage craft!"
It's still not the greatest craft in his illustrious repertoire but, with a little help from his friends, it's improving all the time. A magnificent night with the man of the year.
photos: Roger Sargent