Tricky laid down a simmering and sultry show last Thursday night at the Mezzanine that had the numerous couples in attendance literally getting busy on the dance floor.
He performed with a dynamic and physically attractive band that brought a majestic power to many of his compositions. It was an interesting and impressive presentation.
In many cases the band was playing live versions of songs that had been entirely created in the studio with loops and samples. This led to some surreal moments.
At one point I said to the person with me: "On the album all the instruments on this song are samples which make it sound like there are live musicians in the studio but now that they're playing this song live they're using real musicians to recreate the samples. It's like first they used samples to make it sound like there were real musicians there and now they're using real musicians to make it sound like synthetic samples, this is a total post-modern moment."
The lighting scheme at the show was dark, lots of somber deep red and blue spotlights.
For large portions of the evening Tricky stood with his back to the audience or lurking in the shadows between the spots while the band filled the air around him.
At one point my friend Josh commented, "Sometimes he'll stand there for a song or two and not say a word. Other times the girl lead singer will sing all his lines even though he's the one who sings those lines on the album."
"That's fine," I replied. "Because his words sound even better in her mouth."
One of Tricky's main talents has been in his understanding of the raw instinctual sensuality of the female voice. The talented woman who shared the microphones with him Thursday could go from operatic gymnastics to soft sexy raps in the blink of an eye.
The best of Tricky's compositions are what I heard many people in the audience describe as "skeletal," they mainly consist of just a beat, a sample, and the interplay between his gravelly masculine voice and the sensual smoothness of a female vocalist.
These few simple elements are capable of producing a powerful sexual tension. This was in full effect at the show.
Many of Tricky's fans are women and when you see what a piece of beefcake eye candy he is you're not surprised.
He may be in his 40s but as he prances around shirtless with his perfectly toned stomach and chest the ladies start getting hot and bothered.
In fact, the audience was almost as much fun to watch as the band. There were plenty of Beautiful People out in full force on Thursday night and all of them were dressed to the nines.
Like one tall lanky woman who bore more than a passing resemblance to Twiggy gyrating about in a form-fitting monochromatic op-art dress like some Warhol Factory hallucination.
Half the crowd looked like they had just performed at a raver fashion show. At one point a woman in skin-tight hot pants and little else passed me and I thought I’d just seen Pam Grier in 1972.
And they were all there to bathe in the sexual aura of Tricky and his music. Which is funny, because to a certain degree he's one of the weakest parts of his live show.
This isn't because of any particular shortcoming other than that Tricky's talents lend themselves better to the studio than a live performance.
His best lyrics are the ones spoken in a sultry whisper and this kind of delivery totally gets drowned out in the roaring din of a live performance.
Tricky tried to compensate by punctuating the songs with growls and screams but I much prefer his whispers to his screams.
Even though his voice may have been handicapped, the main instrument Tricky played Thursday night was the band itself.
He was in complete control of them at all times, adding and subtracting orchestrations to suite the mood. One never lost track of the fact that this was his band and these were his songs.
And there was no denying the power of the music on the audience. From the beats to the sultry vocals, Tricky lays down some real bump and grind music and its affect on the crowd was nothing short of libidinous.
It was about half way through the show when I realized that the couple next to me had crossed the line from a merely inappropriate public display of affection into full on get yourself a room mode.
Two songs later they're dry humping so hard I feel like a voyeur in their bedroom even though I'm in a very crowded public place.
Five minutes later I move before fluids start flying and shortly thereafter the couple has to leave the club, still coiled together like a Gordian knot, and it's only two thirds of the way through the show.
Then I noticed this scenario being reproduced throughout the club. One couple after another was leaving the show early and it was obvious that the reason was that they were enjoying the show so much that they had to move up the after show activity.
So let this be a lesson to you male and female singles of San Francisco: Throw out your chocolate, oysters, and Spanish Fly, if you want to get lucky in this town take your date to see Tricky.
One of the best parts of the evening came after the show. Tricky was hanging out in the lobby afterwards and personally hugged everyone and thanked them for coming on their way out. Now that’s a performer who gives a hundred and ten percent!