Tricky : London Royal Festival Hall

Tricky returns after three years brooding, more controlled and just as menacing.

Tricky has been through dark times over the last two years. Having been diagnosed with a rare food allergy which sent him spiralling to the edge of madness, the former Massive Attack rapper has returned with a new record deal (Epitaph), album (‘Blowback’) and his first UK live date in almost three years.

This show, which comes as part of the highbrow Meltdown Festival on London’s South Bank is as an uncompromising and defiant return as one would expect.

If Tricky‘s mental state in 2001 is lighter and more satisfied, it isn’t immediately apparant; an overriding feeling of paranoia still saturates every note. Some things remain true to those dark days of 1998 – for long periods he turns his back to the audience and still performs entire songs in almost complete darkness.

But the keyword here is control. For the first time, Tricky is putting on a show, rather than bleeding himself dry. Much of the vocal work is passed over to Jamacian MC Hawkman and the melodious Ambersunshower, who give the ‘Blowback’ material an extra dimension live. Future single ‘Evolution Revolution Love’ sounds effervescent when played alongside older gems such as ‘Ponderosa’ or ‘Christiansands’, while the metal of ‘Girls’ is as dark as anything from his bleakest moments.

However, in his time away Tricky has become less about the music and more about the myth. Like new labelmate Tom Waits, he’s an enigma capable of moments of utter genius, which are becoming less frequent by the day. The average fan might find his new stance dull but on the basis of tonight, this is where Tricky is at his most content.

Julian Marshall