Rob Jones

Tricky is a stranger to the stages of Wales, so it was a treat for the moody and mesmerising music of the Bristolian beat baron to crossover into the principality. The main man and his aural associates arrived at the Festival of Voice event that was spread across several days in the Welsh Millennium Centre.

The guest has a sonic stance that may be regarded as trip hop but the dexterity takes in a vast vault of variety while retaining a texture that meanders between beauty and the beast. As a 2021 live entity the fragments filter via post-punk ethics and adapt rock riffs, minimalist musings, orchestrated overtones, diligent dub plus the velvet vocals of Marta Zlakowska and then some.

The nature of the performer and his ability to stand proud on the peripheries of pop indicated that it was not going to be a traditional set. It was fireworks night but there was not to be a display of colours lighting up an auditorium pitched in darkness. The odd glimmer of brightness and a controlled spotlight on and off band members had Marta to the fore. Tricky operated behind her and to the fringes for most of the show, occasionally dancing like a dervish. However, his renowned remit of a whispering and throaty union was spared as his female sidekick took the lead. There were touches of Mark E. Smith management. The troops are directed when a sudden change in perspective is required and also the star man both turns away from the action and also leaves the limelight when it takes his fancy.

The tunes cross the board of a longstanding career and it is evident from chats with the sound crew that the choice of material and its delivery is random and anything could happen at any time. The crowd are in deep concentration honing in on the smouldering visuals and spacious volume which in turn sparks their appreciation. The gratitude from Tricky is also apparent and a series of re-appearances takes the gig well over the hour mark.

Tricky honoured his career but it is never a tribute to the past pertinent peaks or a fans favourite forum. This guy has a constant ambition to collaborate with an array of artists and continually move the goalposts. This dictates that on the concert circuit that the next outing will either be a slightly or significantly different affair.

Marta did justice to her role as the focal point and if any one unknowing had turned up it appeared as if it was she was the central attraction. Nonetheless, this is the Tricky way and ultimately people came to hear his songs – and, that is what they got with none of the separate entities failing to gel. The collective creativity was well-received and the punters craved extra helpings.

Tricky obliged and even came back when he said there were no numbers left – but, he still manged to squeeze more out of his system with his assistants keeping up their high standards to the very last.

The governor of grooves has a post-millennium tension to the fore but that was always going to be the score. No false idols here, the public came for a dance in the dark and Tricky did not disappoint.

The Festival of Voice arrived in 2016 and this multi-dimensional celebration has scored some sensational successes. In an era that has become a ‘tricky time’ this is an extra special occasion – and, it is well done to all involved on getting the 2021 proceedings from the planning phase to the reality. Let’s hope for many more years of this amazing addition to the Cardiff calendar – but, for now we can salivate in the ‘Tricky time’ experienced on this memorable evening.