Review: Tricky; Hackney Empire / Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Tricky's mind can't freeze long enough to be recorded. Since Maxinquaye's trip-hop trigger, he's been too edgy, too impatient, to stay in the studio honing the noises in his head. So we have to make do with creepy, insidious affairs like last year's Pre-Millennium Tension. Meanwhile, Tricky has darted from Jamaica to New York to New Orleans, reconnecting to hip-hop and reggae sources, forging ahead, smoking spliff, dropping albums and eps like it's a natural function, like he can't help it. And sometimes he plays gigs, where he only needs to focus for an hour or two. Given free, focused rein, on his two nights in London his talent was undeniable. The first night, in Hackney, had been advertised as an acoustic, seated show, some kind of hellish "unplugged". But Tricky had already changed his mind. The night would be odder than that.

It began in darkness, and stayed that way. The most you could see was Tricky's silhouette. And he had decided to open this invisible concert with six new songs, a sneak preview on a scale he could only survive because his audience are so expectant of wilfulness - and because the new work was so good. The songs seemed to be tugging in directions prefigured by Pre-Millennium Tension - a move into the lyrical extremity of hip-hop, and deeper into his head, in lost, lonely love songs. "Fuck the music industry, let's take it back to the council flats - guns, grenades and baseball bats," he threatened in one song. "I think I would love you, if I tried to," co-singer and ex-partner Martina sighed in another. Every word toyed with the idea of identity in crisis.

It was a split dramatised by Tricky and Martina's on-stage relationship. Physically, Tricky clung to his mic-stand for support, rooted to the spot by a leg-brace, wobbling his head like some helpless puppet. Martina held her mic as if she were at prayer. Sometimes she sang with wracked pain, sometimes she left the singing to Tricky's rasp, looking her body into his groove, or moving towards him. Always in control, her presence gave the new songs their conviction. Sometimes, you couldn't tell one voice from the other. Sometimes, you couldn't see who was who.

Even this emotional claustrophobia was dwarfed by the paranoid sound Tricky had created to surround it. All that mattered after a while was the chittering beats at the music's heart, dropping to the tribal percussion of something close to "Sympathy for the Devil", as words were repeated into irrelevance, then abandoned. More than most examples of "the devil's music", it sounded truly magical, as if something deep had been carelessly evoked. The noise increased in density as heat in the venue rose. You couldn't see anyone, you couldn't remember when or how the song had started. All you could do was move, listen or leave. Until, as it seemed it would never end, Tricky slipped off. No one could have taken much more.

The next night, in Shepherd's Bush, the promotion of Pre-Millennium Tension determined a more conventional set-list. The stage was more visible from the start. Tricky spiced things up with a cameo from "Mad" Frankie Fraser, a psycho-parody of Phil Daniels' guestspots for Blur. But it seemed that the previous night's extremes might have been an aberration. Until one of those nameless new songs set things off again, returning Tricky to his new, nightmare beat - not hip-hop, jungle or rock 'n' roll, not anything precisely heard before. And as its volume rose, the lights flashed on for a few sacrilegious seconds, revealing Tricky in the act of shaking the drum-kit apart, as the crowd craned to see. It seemed the light could only have arrived because Tricky was too gone to stop it. When the lights at last revealed an empty stage, there was a rush for the doors, to get into the air.

And then, when half the crowd had gone, Tricky wandered back on to play the organ, like some mad phantom. It seemed as if he might be playing when everyone had gone, as if he could keep creating forever. Whatever soft, bourgeois adornment trip-hop has become in the hands of others was buried on these two nights of extraordinary new sounds.

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Stinson Hunter and his associates Stubbs and Grime in Channel 4 documentary The Paedophile Hunter

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
This Banksy mural in Clacton has been removed by the council
art
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
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.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?