Tricky in Berlin

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  • Onstage, Adrian Thaws, AKA Tricky, has often placed himself away from the spotlight, but he's at his best when he's the main man. His concert last week at Gretchen in Berlin was something of a homecoming gig for the Bristolian, who recently relocated to the German capital. It was billed as a Skilled Mechanics performance, a stripped-down concept rooted in Tricky's latest LP, which features Luke Harris on drums and Paul Noels on guitar. For once, there was no female vocalist. The trio started by rolling through tracks from the new record—"Hero," "Diving Away," "Here My Dear"—plus a few from Tricky's glory days, namely "Makes Me Wanna Die," with Noel performing Martina Topley-Bird's original vocals, and a magnificent rendition of "Vent" (both from 1996's Pre-Millennium Tension). Tricky's style has evolved over time, moving from smoky trip-hop towards a more sultry, aggressive rock sound. At Gretchen, he was full of rock star pomp—pulling on his shirt, beating his chest, punching the air repeatedly. For an artist fast approaching 50, his intensity onstage was remarkable. "My Palestine Girl" from 2014's Adrian Thaws was one of the set's best moments, bringing together the dark and melancholic energies that have forever characterised his sound. It was a wild performance, and the Berlin crowd lapped it up. In a recent interview with XLR8R, Tricky said that he feels he should be playing to bigger crowds. To his credit, there's nothing about his onstage presence or vocal delivery that wouldn't work in a bigger venue. But for whatever reason, the gigs just haven't materialised. That's a shame, not least because Thaws has become a better performer with age. His energy, intensity and showmanship have increased greatly over time and this new Skilled Mechanics set-up suits him perfectly, thrusting him back into the spotlight where he belongs.