To those who don’t know much of Tricky’s history, it is important to know that he is indeed a mad genius (quite literally, as he claims an acute allergy to yeast that went undiagnosed for years ‘turned him into a monster’). One of the original contributors to Massive Attack, he has literally helped shape the trip hop movement from the beginning to present day with seminal albums such as Maxinquaye and Pre-Millennium Tension. Tricky’s latest offering, Mixed Race, has so far received very mixed reactions in Australia. The same was to be said for his performance at The Forum on Wednesday.

Opening the night was DJ/Vocalist duo Thief and Wolfgramm who, on their own, are tremendously accomplished in their fields. However, what seemed to be a lack of preparation held the two back, never quite accomplishing the chemistry required to get the audience going. Thief’s technique on the decks was the high point here, with some amazing scratching and sampling going on underneath Eliza Wolfgramm’s smooth, sultry and soulful voice.

As the time came closer for Tricky to take the stage, a seemingly empty (ish) Forum transformed into a near packed moshpit full of incredibly varied punters. There were, of course, your Massive Attack fans, your middle-agers reliving the 90s, your younger rave-goers (certainly under the influence of everything except alcohol), a large amount of standard hippies and a bunch of ‘normies’ wondering if they were in the right place.

As they all coalesced into one giant, happy unit waiting for the show to begin, the Forum’s PA system (one of the best in Australia) started pumping out bass frequencies so low the ground shook, the roof rattled and some members of the audience required new undergarments. A collective sigh of relief stammered through the audience as this finished, followed by an almighty roar as the night’s star strolled onto the stage with his band.

Awkwardly waiting for a backing track to finish before launching into his set, Tricky seemed disjointed from his band and audience at first. As he wandered around the stage, one couldn’t help but wonder whether or not his famous paranoia had finally gotten to him. Spending about 60% of the set with his back to the audience watching the keyboard player usually means something is up…

Scattered throughout the set were moments of genius though, as he performed classics such as KarmaComa, Black Steel and Overcome to the crowd’s delight. His band, which absolutely nailed the sound and style of Tricky’s music, were constantly at the mercy of their conductor. Always ready to drop out completely at the point of a finger. This made for some amazing new arrangements of old material and kept the entranced audience on their toes the whole evening.

However, it wasn’t until Tricky performed a near ten-minute cover of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, where he pulled one hundred or so members of the crowd onstage to dance with him, that he really found his feet. After this he was unstoppable (no matter how many ‘jazz cigarettes’ he smoked).

Powering through energised performances of Vent and another ‘onstage crowd invasion’ rendition of Ghetto Stars, Tricky ended the evening by jumping offstage and rewarding himself with a drink from the bar and a wander through the crowd while his band powered on til the bitter end. Overall, an exceptionally varied show, with Tricky experiencing (drug induced) highs and (paranoid schizophrenic) lows.

–       Nigel Moyes