Live Wire

Jeru the Damaja was a no-show in the support slot, so Tricky went on promptly at 10, shrouded in the same murky, blue and deep-maroon lighting that rendered the feverish, mahogany-skinned beat hero and his female foil Martine as shadows for most of their two-hour set. Maybe it was just an image thing, or perhaps, more nobly, Tricky prefers to keep the live focus on his music and be heard, not seen. Either way, the kid came to play, and he brought a few friends with him--a monster, four-piece band (guitar, bass, drums and boards) that Tricky used to warp his studio tracks into a fresh dimension.

The set list was roughly a 40/60 respective split of material from Tricky's first two albums, Maxinquaye and Pre-Millennium Tension, spiced with at least one cut off his side project Nearly God. Some of the tracks, including Maxinquaye's spooky opener "Overcome" and Public Enemy cover "Black Steel," were relatively easy to recognize by the distinct loops and samples at their core. Others were barely discernible, hyperextended versions of their recorded selves. The finest of these was the last song of the show, a massive version of "Vent" from P-MT that Tricky, Inc., drew as a long (10 minutes and change), delicious crescendo. At the climax, a rapid-fire red light strobed the stage as Tricky went into a spasm, gripping the mike stand until his arms shook and seething the word "breathe" over and over.

Despite a tight set, Tricky's appearance in the Valley turned into more of a party than a concert. The progenitor of trip-hop failed to grace Tempe with an encore--a treat he claims to reserve for only the most attentive of audiences, which the Gibson's crowd was not. The outdoor balcony was often packed tighter than the main floor, as was the star-studded upstairs bar area (Marilyn Manson was in the house, along with members of Sepultura and Trunk Federation). The see-and-be-seeners treated Tricky's dank, narcotic beats as a soundtrack for conversation, occasionally closing in to check out a track, but mostly concentrating on the social event more than the artist. It was hard to miss the ironic juxtaposition between them and the captivated rave girl in silver lame who couldn't get a ticket, but watched the show from atop a concrete bench in Hayden Square. Unlike the cramped insiders, she could dance to beats and a live band that were many fathoms deep.

--David Holthouse

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