Tricky, Club Academy, Manchester
La Roux, Notting Hill Arts Club, London

The dark material is all the better when his 1980s personal and musical influences are involved

The first time I saw Tricky, he wasn’t on a stage. Some time back in the mid-1990s, I was on an assignment to cover the Beastie Boys’ tour of Europe and, back stage in some North Sea port – it might have been Rotterdam, it might have been Hamburg – there, inexplicably, he was.

Two things instantly stood out about Tricky, then at the zenith of his commercial powers. The first was that, even off-duty, he was wearing a floral dress (which, under the high-tide tyranny of Lad Rock, took cojones the size of Bristol). The second was that he appeared oblivious to the backstage revelry, slouched against the dressing-room wall, smiling enigmatically to himself, completely in a world of his own.

Which is precisely where Adrian Thaws has always been. If Maxinquaye, his debut, was sufficiently well-behaved to bring to dinner parties, then his second album Pre-Millennium Tension expressed his darker purpose. Paradoxically, as he has retreated from the spotlight of fame, he has emerged as a performer. Back then, if you went to a Tricky concert, you were lucky if you saw him at all. Venues would typically be plunged in darkness, the diffident star lit by a stuttering red bulb. Tonight, he’s illuminated by bright blue spots, and, in his bare chest and baby dreads, rages into the microphone like a man possessed. It’s as if someone’s switched his meds.

On tonight’s rendition of “Hot Like A Sauna” he declares himself a “street dog with a Molotov cocktail”, invokes the IRA, and issues violent threats against casual racists. He’s just channelling the tough mood of his latest album, Knowle West Boy, which, in its title and lead-off single, proudly proclaimed his council estate origins. On “Council Estate” itself, he turns his back to the crowd, his bony spine bent over so the vertebrae stick out like stegosaurus scales, and goes completely postal on his bemused drummer’s kit.

He seems uncomfortable with presenting the Maxinquaye material, while remaining conscious of his duty to include some of it. For “Overcome”, his reworked version of Massive Attack collaboration “Karmacoma”, he vacates the stage entirely, leaving his co-singer Veronika Coassolo to get on with it. It’s no chore: as she proves on the rolling piano blues of “Puppy Toy”, she’s a hell of a singer.

By contrast, on PMT track “Vent”, he’s a supremely physical presence, repeating the echo-laden roar “Can’t hardly breathe!” over soft-rock Pat Benatar chords by clutching the mic to his ribcage. Sadly, that album’s stand-out track, “Tricky Kid”, is only partially performed: he gives us the chorus, but omits those sinister, cryptic lines about “German-Jamaicans with twisted faces”, or about having the hots for Mary Magdalene. It’s when he and his band delve deepest into the hypnotic and haunting end of their musical palette that you fully appreciate that Tricky belongs to the generation who grew up on 1980s nuclear paranoia and took the reggae buzzword of “dread” literally. Then again, much of his later material is essentially heavy metal, a fact he acknowledges with a curfew-busting cover of Motörhead’s “Ace Of Spades”. Try taking that to a dinner party.

Room for one more camel through the eye of the needle? Some readers may feel that I harp on about the bourgeois coup that’s taken place in pop. In my defence, it is undeniably one of the most significant tropes of early millennium music. There’s one simple way to escape my Class War wrath: be any good. La Roux – nominally a duo, but led and personified by self-confessed posh kid Elly Jackson – are any good.

As any student of French will know, the name “La Roux” (the redhead) is grammatically incorrect. It’s either le roux or la rousse, according to gender. It’s possible that the error is deliberate, adding to Jackson’s androgyny. Poor French never did Les Rythmes Digitales any harm, or, for that matter, Depeche Mode, both of whose music, you suspect, feature in Jackson’s collection.

Of all the vying trends of the early millennium, it’s Electroclash that has survived and prospered. Its styles have been co-opted by the mainstream (from Lady Gaga to Britney to Kylie), its progenitors (Peaches, Tiga, Fischerspooner, Miss Kittin) are all poised to reap the rewards with new albums, and there’s a new generation of electro-brats ready to sweep all before them, with La Roux very near the front.

Pet Shop Boys’ victory at the Brits, which had previously cold-shouldered electronic music, shows that, if you stick around long enough, history will prove you right. The track on their new album, “This Used To Be The Future”, is redundant: this sort of thing is the future again.

This time next year, La Roux, on the evidence of tracks like “Quicksand” – Jackson’s pure, sexless soprano gliding over ascending synths – and their fellow upstarts Frankmusik and Little Boots, will surely pick up a Brit or two themselves.

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game