#nowplaying The Harder They Come- Joe Strummer
I’m off to Bristol to see Tricky on Thursday. He will be joined on stage for the first time this millennium by his onetime partner, Martina Topley- Bird as they recreate his landmark debut album, Maxinquaye. To say that I’m looking forward to it is something of an understatement. Common sense says that Tricky was never better than with Martina. Although my personal experience of Tricky gigs tells me that’s not necessarily true, there’s an undeniable frisson of excitement at seeing how these two will bounce off each other once more. Perhaps it will be much as it has been for Tricky down the years, Martina taking centre stage whilst the Tricky Kid weaves, barely visible, through the shadows.
Anyway, this upcoming event got me thinking about the first, and only other, time that I had to travel to go and see Tricky in action. And it was when I was living in Leeds, just over ten years ago. I’d bought a copy of the NME for some reason (I wasn’t a habitual buyer) and flicking through it, I saw that Tricky would be playing at the Manchester Metropolitan University Student Union in support of his Blowback LP. As luck had it, obviously Leeds to Manchester wasn’t the longest of journeys and we (me and my then girlfriend, Becks) had a friend, Lisa, at university in Manchester. So we had somewhere to stay. Phone calls were made, I remember booking the gig tickets on the phone, and we were off.
Becks, Lisa and I walked into the bar at the student union in more than good time. Having bought drinks, my attention- as it usually does- turned to my surroundings. Looking around, I saw a pool table. Not reason in itself for mass excitement, but the identity of the man at the table was. It was Tricky. Being the shy, retiring type that I am, despite the urgings of my gig partners, I was a little bit terrified of just going over and saying hello, especially as I was wearing a ’95 era Tricky t-shirt. I mean, he had a pretty fearsome reputation back then and I didn’t want to seem like a weirdo. Luckily for me, someone else went over and when we saw that he had come back without being visibly fucked off, one of the girls went to check out the reaction.
He was really nice, apparently. There was nothing else to do.
So I got my man on, squared my shoulders and strode over towards the pool table. I’ve always been quite pleased with how this bit turned out. He was just walking around the table towards me and I looked him in the eye, stuck my hand out and said “Tricky, I just wanted to say that I fucking love your music, man.” And he said, I loved him for this…
“Really? That’s great, thanks mate!”
I know it doesn’t look like much, but I could tell from the way he said it that he meant it and I felt sufficiently relaxed to stay and chat to some of his entourage. Tricky clocked my shirt and said to his uncle- I recognised him from the Channel 4 documentary, Naked And Famous, but I’m not obsessed. Honest- “That’s an old one, innit?”
He signed my ticket for me and then I left him to it. After all, he had a game of pool to play, a gig to prepare for. We went to go and enter the hall and promptly had our entire tickets taken off of us for some, unexplained, reason. The whole thing, not just the stub. I was gutted. What else could we get Tricky to sign that wouldn’t be taken from me? Another t-shirt, perhaps?
A few minutes later, we were standing by the side of the pool table, with Lisa bellowing “Tricky, Tricky!” at him in an attempt to get him to sign the t-shirt, which he did, and anything else she could think of. Even I thought she was getting carried away. Again, we left him to it, this time for good and settled in for the show.
Perhaps it was the weed (his not mine), maybe it was the fact that he spent the entire show with his back to the audience, or that Blowback represented the weakest material of Tricky’s career. Maybe it was just the fact that I’d met Tricky that night. Whatever the reason, the gig was distinctly underwhelming. Whereas I can remember things about every other Tricky gig I’ve been to over a period of 16 years, all I remember about this one is that Tricky took to the stage wearing a pair of black leather Adidas pants. I thought they looked rather cool, Becks thought the back to the stage pose was the height of disrespect for an audience that had come to the see the Tricky Kid.
She had a point, I guess. I’m sure he will be on much better form on Thursday night, at home and in familiar company. I can’t wait.