Rock Criticism With Attitude -- Double Vision From Vancouver To New York City
December 21, 2010:
Bury The Evidence: Tricky Escapes Snowdrift, Then Sinks His Career In The Pacific Northwest
Tricky, Dec. 17, 2010, Neumos, Seattle, WA
Dec, 18, 2010, The Venue, Vancouver, B.C.
Frozen in Time: Tricky's tour bus wasn't the only thing that got snowed under this trip
The Tricky rambling revue hit the Pacific Northwest after having to cancel two dates in the Midwest because of snow.
In all honesty, I wish his gigs in Seattle and Vancouver had been cancelled as well.
I’m a veteran of over 20 Tricky shows, starting in 1995 when he first hit these shores warming up for PJ Harvey, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with his shtick; I’m a “massive” fan of it.
I’ve met the man on several occasions and interviewed him once. He plays in dim twilight a la his hero Miles Davis, shirt-off, back to the audience, smoking spliffs, cueing the band when to take it down or up.
Previously, he was engaged and the result was intense, shambolic, hypnotic, religious and cathartic. "Voodoo" was what my buddy called Tricky live during the Pre-Millennium Tension tour, and it was sublime. Even when his albums waned in quality, his live shows remained transcendent.
Juxtapose in 1999 was middling and disjointed at best, but its tour was frenetic and blinding.
Sadly, he couldn’t pull that rabbit out of the hat this tour, which is actually in support of one of his better recent releases, Mixed Race, and hot on the heels of his Knowle West Boy cd and the spellbinding and rapturous tour for it last year.
Tricky barely participated this Northwestern go-round and was intent on smoking pot while his pack of hired guns played mediocre-to-horrific cover versions of his staples along with his cover versions of other’s staples.
There was a sign on the entrance to the Seattle show informing us that “cigarettes” were a "prop" in tonight’s performance.
More like a crutch, although the tragic was briefly comic when he pulled out his asthma puffer for a couple of hauls between joints.
"At first I was annoyed when the audiences at these
shows intently talked through these classics, but
quickly, I realized they were doing me a favor."
Tricky has now relegated himself to the role of stage director, so essentially it’s not his show anymore.
His biggest contribution in these shows - beyond deigning to approach the mike occasionally - was to usher a flock of fans on stage during a flaccid and abysmal version of Motorhead's classic “Ace of Spades" that would make Lemmy lose his liquid lunch.
Further demonstrating how unregenerative he has become, The Tricky One revisited this pale trick during the encore, “Past Mistake,” and brought everyone onstage again. This was unfortunate as that song along with “Dear God,” “Tricky Kid,” and “Vent” were the lonely highlights of the hour and 45 minute sets.
“Vent” merits the nod because Tricky finally unleashed his trademark jams complete with slow build-ups and whirling crescendos. XTC’s “Dear God” worked and was one of the only songs which Francesca Riley his (notso) “back-up” singer pulled off.
More often, "Frankie" was incapable of more than a Jessica Rabbit impression, and this affect/effect grew tired quickly the longer she was forced into the lead role.
“Tricky Kid” was refreshing because the eponymous kid finally did his job instead of dialing it in.
Invariably, these minor triumphs were short-lived and not enough to save the stillborn evening(s).
The outright slaughter of the rest of his material – especially, “Overcome,” “Pumpkin,” “Black Steel,” “Council Estate” and the almost unrecognizable “Bristol to London” – was a series of repeat offences too egregious to allow for a pittance of redemption.
At first I was annoyed when the audiences at these shows intently talked through these classics, but quickly, I realized they were doing me a favor.
Given opportunities to resuscitate the proceedings, Tricky instead repelled.
As great as “Past Mistake” was despite the contrived stage invasion, it was followed by the band standing listless and confused as a rap blasted over the PA.
Next, they embarked on the closer, a limp version of “Ghetto Stars” while Tricky walked through what was left of the crowd, glad-handing, serving up a fleeting moment with a now-fleeting celebrity.
Again, what could’ve been perceived as a Hail Mary, good PR, and a saved evening recoiled into a desperate overture, turning both toxic and nasty.
Granted, this "man of the people" was on a thinly-veiled prowl for post-gig pussy.
However, in Vancouver, when the fading trip-hop king was approached at the bar post-show by a long-time male fan, I witnessed something unacceptable: Tricky posed for a picture and then verbally rebuffed the shocked disciple:
“Look, you got what you wanted, you got your picture, now move on, get away from me.”
Like any devotee, I might be more blind and forgiving if he had given it all and left everything on the mat. However, to allow the quality of your performance to degenerate so pathetically, then chastise one of your dwindling converts for his dedication is beyond the pale.
Against the backdrop of shrinking audiences and smaller venues tour after tour, there is something offensive, delusional and Sunset Boulevard-esque about it all.
At this rate, next time around, he’ll play a phone booth, where at least he’ll be with his last biggest fan: himself.
Like many did during these shows on frigid December evenings, I’ve left the building.