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Sunday, 24 June, 2001, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Tricky's theatre of dreams
Tricky on stage at the Royal Festival Hall
Tricky has said his new material is more radio-friendly
Bristolian musician Tricky, whose Maxinquaye has been described as one of the albums of the decade, played a show at London's Royal Festival Hall as part of Robert Wyatt's Meltdown festival.

BBC News Online's Ian Youngs tried to keep his sanity.

Tricky could be seen violently shaking his head whenever the irregular, pulsating lights illuminated the stage.

When they lit up the audience, the movement made this big, normally refined hall look like an anthill. And the harsh, heavy guitar riffs and drum beats just would not stop.

The word is that he is not as mad as he used to be - but watching Tricky live is still like being stuck in a nightmare.

This man wowed music fans with 1995's startling, unexpected masterpiece Maxinquaye, his debut album that drew on hip-hop, dub, jazz and rock - but that release was utterly unique.

Tricky on stage at the Royal Festival Hall
He was accompanied by two other vocalists
Even then, the former Massive Attack vocalist was teetering on the tightrope between genius and madness - and the general consensus was that after Maxinquaye's success, he fell off on the wrong side.

And while his new album Blowback is not going to recreate that success, it may take him back toward the mainstream and win back some fans who had become fed up of his inconsistency.

Visible only in the flashes or red spotlights that broke up the darkness, Tricky is clearly still brimming over with attitude and energy.

Unlike the CDs, the live show is heavy enough to rock this building to its 50-year-old foundations. And while that is not necessarily bad, when the songs end but the beats, squawks and splitting riffs are repeated for another five minutes, you begin to worry for your mental health as well as his.

The normally edgy Maxinquaye seems soothing by comparison.

When he was not on vocal duties - which were shared with a rapper and a sultry singer - he stood with his back to the crowd. And even when he was singing, he would do it side-on to his fans, often shaking manically and sticking his tongue out.

Although the live experience is far removed from playing one of his CDs, those with imagination did not find it too hard to guess how the new album might sound.

The coming single Evolution Revolution Love is instantly arresting - more tuneful than the rest and using his favourite trick of mixing different styles of vocals.

If he really is not as mad as he used to be, let's hope he does not get any worse - or we might all come out of the next gig scarred for life.

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15 Aug 99 | New Music Releases
CD Review: Tricky
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