Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Not so easy does it

September 16, 2008

Photo: Stefan Cohen/NYT 2008
I have been neglectful in not mentioning last Friday’s appearance of Tricky at the Music Box in Hollywood. This was his only appearance in the city and his first time here in many years. He’s just wrapped up a U.S. tour in support of his most recent release Knowle West Boy which is a more consistent recording than we’ve seen from this legend of 90s popular music in awhile, and his show, though basic and straight-forward, seemed to reflect the new-found energy behind these tracks.

Still, this was Tricky, which means that you get it all, good and bad, often unfiltered. Not everything works, but what has always been true about his work remains so, even the mistakes are fascinating. He continues to coarsely mumble away in the background of more prominent vocals, here provided by Veronika Coassolo. The beats are there, but this is not a dance show any more than it is a hip hop one or a punk one. Things pulse forward but the songs are more about the journey than the arrival and release is elusive. Nothing ever completely ignites into bombast or rage. And if it gets close to it, everything soon falls apart. The set list covered much recent material as well as several selections from older works including both “Overcome” and “Black Steel” from Maxinquaye. The more recent works "Joseph", "Veronika", "Council Estate", and "Past Mistake" stood up well in relation to prior efforts.

In attendance was an interesting, downbeat crowd that, while not at capacity, seemed appreciative of this relatively rare appearance. The opening act was a not unpleasant artist named Sonny with a rather large black-clad long hair ensemble who powered through tuneful and not entirely unpleasant numbers reminiscent of a Japanese power pop version of Bon Jovi. Stylistically not a bad match, though visually from very different traditions. But as frustrating as Tricky can be when it comes to consistency, it's nice to have him back. Especially in a year when the 90s seem to be coming back all around with the likes of Portishead and other giving it a go.

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