It was lights out at Tricky’s sold-out May 12th show at Neumos. After the band was situated onstage, Tricky himself provided the stage lighting, illuminating himself and his three bandmates using a flashlight commandeered from stage staff. Despite audience pleas of, “You’re beautiful. We want to see you,” the venue remained darkened for the duration of the two-hour set, broken only by the occasional flash of a rogue cell-phone camera. This set a contemplative mood appropriate to Tricky’s 1990s trip-hop origins.
The set was characteristically unconventional. Tricky’s physical presence was pleasantly quirky, from his tremulous leg while singing intensely, to his casual inching up of his shirt to reveal his abdominal tattoo. As stage staff scurried to untangle his dual microphones and right spilled water bottles, Tricky lit a hand-rolled cigarette onstage.
Twice, the musicians exited the stage. The audience turned to coordinated stomping and clapping to coax them back, and eventually the band reappeared – the second time without Tricky. Polish vocalist Marta Zakowska performed the background vocals for “Hell is Round the Corner,” left spare without Tricky’s iconic rapping. The crowd still roared.
The performance combined tunes from Tricky’s 2017 release Ununiform with classics from his 12 earlier albums. Death and loss were pervasive themes. Particularly compelling was the lyric, “So, where do I go, where do I go/I don’t die young, not like Michael,” repeated mantra-like in an extended and hypnotic visitation of “When We Die.” Through faces of twisted anguish, pumping microphones, screams and whispers, and raucous offstage laughter, Tricky offered an emotional and memorable performance.
Brooklyn-based group Young Magic (http://carparkrecords.com/artists/young-magic/) opened with a half-hour set. The trio performed electronic music that skillfully combined multinational influences.