The opening act was an entirely too-loud lesbian punk-thrash trio. Yay earplugs. We hung out at the bar in the back and drank a very nice cider. Conversation was impossible - we "talked" by typing on our phones and showing each other what we'd written. Kind of surreal but OK. As far as I can tell the last good opening act I've seen was Nephrok before George Clinton and the first new-to-me really good opening act was And One before a VNV show some years ago. I keep hoping.
Then there was Tricky. I've struggled to characterize what exactly was wrong, so let me give you a few details: he moved in a jerky, knees-locked fashion; he stared at the ceiling most of the time; he grabbed at two mics on stands and tried using both as (variously) microphones to sing into, batons to wave, and percussion instruments to bang against his chest. He flailed about in a way that gave the impression of someone strung out badly on something. He constantly grabbed and pulled at his clothing with one hand as though he was going to rip off his shirt or just hold it bunched in his fist (with the mic) as if he didn't want it touching his skin.
If you closed your eyes and just listened it wasn't all that bad. The guitarist for Skilled Mechanics is pretty good and despite Tricky's physical antics he had the lyrics and timing of a lucid and not-strung-out performer. But watching him method-act a heroin withdrawal on stage was intensely awkward. The complete lack of interaction with the audience, including not looking at the people, just made it weirder.
The act consisted of Tricky, the guitarist, and one drummer. All the electronics and the extra vocal tracks were played from somewhere off-stage. Tricky's songs are usually complex and multi-layered. I expected at least a synth player and a couple back-up singers. Maybe they weren't in the budget this time? However it came to pass, having some of the most interesting parts of the music appearing out of nowhere just added to the surreal.
After 45 mostly painful minutes of this, Tricky announced "Good night" and the band left the stage. We were all checking our watches... yes, it really was only 45 minutes since they'd come on. After a short break they reappeared and the bizarre just continued as if they hadn't said good night a few minutes ago. We decided that we could still get ice cream and salvage some of the evening before catching the shuttle bus back to Alewife and getting our car.
JP Licks is open until late and their ice cream is tasty.