review by Philip LaRose
photos of Tricky by Narisa Spaulding
Last weekend, I was at the Showbox at the Market to see trip-hop pioneer Tricky, on tour with Seattle artist Anomie Belle. KEXP’s own DJ Kid Hops spun a cool mix of reggae, dub, trip-hop, and breakbeat before and between the sets.
Anomie Belle is the solo project of vocalist/musician/producer Toby Campbell. Backed by a drummer and two vocalist/keyboardists, she sang and played keyboards, violin, and guitar during her set of trip-hop and downtempo music. Her soulful vocals reminded me of another local artist, Emilia Sosa, though by adding violin loops Campbell is more akin to Andrew Bird. As a violinist myself, I was happy to see violin played in a rock context, and I felt it added some much-needed color to her music, which suffered a bit from an overall sameness among the songs. She ended her set with a cover of Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place,” which I thought on the one hand was more interesting than much of her own music and on the other was a missed opportunity for her to make it her own by adding violin to it. Campbell is clearly a talented musician, and I feel she just needs to experiment some more with diversifying the style of Anomie Belle.
Tricky is no stranger to diversity. As one of the founders of the trip-hop genre, he combined hip-hop with downtempo, ambient, and breakbeat electronica. In this show, Tricky demonstrated that he has continued to experiment with combining musical genres. His backing band — guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums, as well as a female singer handling lead vocals on many songs — opened with a heavy rock instrumental, and in fact much of the show had a surprisingly heavy rock sound, not what I had expected. Early in the set he played two covers that were featured on his 2003 album Vulnerable. First was The Cure’s “The Lovecats”, transformed from its playful quirkiness into a mysterious, even vaguely threatening mood piece that built to a hard-rock finish. Then, he teased the beginning verse of “Black Steel” — itself a cover of a Public Enemy song — from his 1995 debut Maxinquaye before segueing into a fairly straightforward cover of XTC’s “Dear God”. Of course, Tricky played plenty of his own songs as well, touching most of his albums from Maxinquaye to his latest release, 2008’s Knowle West Boy. Again, these varied in style from sultry and mysterious grooves to heavy rockers to grand and expansive anthems. After playing close to an hour and finishing with “Overcome,” Tricky said goodnight, only to come back and play another seven long songs, extending the show to nearly two hours in total. The audience stayed with him the whole time, even when he left a second time as the band played “Black Steel” in full, which seemed like it might be the finale. Instead, he came back out for three more songs, finally concluding with one more cover, the driving rock of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” In all, it was a strong set of compelling music, and I really enjoyed the show.