Smokin' Ace. Club Academy, Manchester, Wednesday, February 18
Outside Tricky’s Shockwaves NME Awards gig, there’s a pair of city-hippies wearing all kinds of offending wool and smoking what your mother has never used in a herb salad. Inside, there’s a far less rebellious atmosphere. Liverpool’s Sound Of Guns are being shy. Tear it up, be better, explode, damn you! But they can’t hear us over the gentle bitch-slapping of mediocre indie. Go on, we invite you to put a bullet in at least one ear canal. What, afraid to pull the trigger? Sort it out, boys!
Speaking of a musician who has been known to wield a firearm, Shaun Ryder, at a Happy Mondays gig a week after the smoking ban was enforced in July ’07, puffed away more fervently than Dot Cotton ever did in Albert Square. Nineteen months later and another frontman could not give a smaller shit about the law if he’d been on a birdseed diet since Christmas. Tricky’s not just having a sly rollie; he’s happily flaunting several fat spliffs like the very notion of a ‘smoking ban’ is the most ludicrous idea since the reclassification of cannabis.
The intense energy dripping off the 41-year-old producer is the ever-tempting, sweet sweat of non-conformity. Beneath grimy beats, equal parts humanity and danger remain in Tricky’s newer lyrics: “In my mother’s belly and I’m starting to kick/Nine months in the womb and I’m making her sick”, he spits on ‘Council Estate’ prior to the classic ‘Veronika’ and truly awesome soul of ‘Puppy Toy’.
Amid the frantic hiss of ‘Girls’, where the claim “Girls wish you never had boys/They grow up to be bad boys” seems more of an autobiographical statement than an observational lyric, suddenly security invades the stage, and firmly advise the West Country’s most notorious anarchist to kill the joint. He smirks, “Security wanted to do a song.”
He may have unknowingly pioneered trip-hop in the ’90s, but tonight confirms what we always hoped; regardless of what genre labels are sitting uncomfortably on his tattooed shoulders, the Tricky Kid has definitely grown up to be one authority-screwing punk.