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August 5, 2011

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Tricky does things his way

ON Tuesday night, British trip hop artist Tricky performed in front of a near-capacity crowd at Shanghai's Mao Livehouse. The week before, Tricky and international pop sensation Beyonce shared the stage to perform her hit single "Baby Boy."

What a difference a week makes. On July 26, Tricky was a guest at Beyonce's performance at the Glastonbury Festival in England. One week later on August 2, he performed solo in Shanghai.

Alas, the famed Beyonce didn't return the favor with a cameo of her own at Tricky's show - though people seemed excited to see just Tricky. So who is this Tricky guy?

Tricky was born Adrian Thaws in Bristol, England, to a Jamaican father and a Ghanian-English mother. He shot to fame in the early 1990s as a vocalist of Massive Attack, a pioneering duo of what has now been established as the "trip hop" genre.

Trip hop mixes the deep bass of Jamaican reggae and dub with the steady beats of electronic music. The songs tend to have a down tempo rhythm, unusual for modern club music. Tricky's breathy, whispered vocals have also become a trademark of the genre.

In 1995, Tricky released his first solo album "Maxinquaye," which met with considerable critical and commercial success. Since then he's continued to release music with declining commercial success but little critical detriment, and has done a bit of acting.

Back to Tuesday: The audience was psyched for Tricky's inaugural performance in Shanghai. And at 10pm on the dot out came his backing band, made up of three women in near matching tight black dresses: a vocalist, a bassist and a drummer.

After an introductory song, Tricky strolled to the stage to loud applause, seemingly wrapped in his own world, constantly playing with his necklace and turning his back to the audience.

The audience seemed pleased by his presence but confused by his behavior. The confusion seeped to his band as he directed them, sometimes frantically, to perform or not along with the backing track that accompanied each song.

At one point he pointed for the accompanying vocalist to sing when she was clearly not intending to.

At another, he abruptly left the stage for a song, sending a stage manager to run up to the drummer during the middle of the song, and then running off stage after Tricky. He was back by the next song.

Tricky's between-song banter was enthusiastically accepted by the crowd. It was when he apologized to the crowd and explained that the day before he had "sacked" his guitarist and keyboard player that the lack of organization on stage made sense. His post on his Facebook page at 6pm also explained the situation. The post asked fans for backing tracks to one of his songs.

Still, audience members gave positive - if tempered - reviews. Shanghai-based DJ Sal called it "an awesome show," but added "it was a little bit amateur."

Other audience members gave overall positive reviews but cited the lack of guitar and keyboard as a real detriment.

Local DJ and promoter of the show R3 said Tricky "just does what he wants."


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