Tricky is most comfortable with darkness.
The English trip-hop pioneer had his China debut in the grasslands of Zhangbei, a three-hour drive from Beijing, on Sunday night.
He shared the stage with a five-member band, including Veronika Coassolo, who sang the lead vocals for most songs. With Tricky growling, the lights moved through the cloud over their heads, barely illuminating them.
"It's odd for me to play in the daytime. Darkness can be exciting," he says before stepping on stage as the closing performer of the three-day InMusic Festival, which attracted more than 100,000 fans.
In the mid-1990s, Tricky (whose real name is Adrian Thaws) took the music of his hometown, Bristol, England, and turned it into something gloomy with a slow, deep pulse.
As he sings from his album Knowle West Boy, named after the poor neighborhood where he grew up, he points to the dark sky, swinging his body. His fans follow his every move and they sing along.
His other songs included Puppy Toy (blues) and Council Estate (punk). After the opening song, he took off his shirt to show his tattoo, setting off screams from his fans.
"It is an honor to be the last performer and such an outdoor music festival surprised me," he says. "I didn't prepare too much because anything can happen on stage. I just follow the feeling when I am performing."
Tricky, 41, did tai chi for seven years when he lived in New York. "It is slow, smooth and powerful," he says. "Like music, you can feel its spirit."
InMusic Festival, an outdoor music extravaganza organized by a Beijing-based music magazine, InMusic, was full of energy, says Tricky.
"What makes a festival successful is diversity," says Li Hongjie, the organizer of InMusic Festival. "International artists like Tricky are the ones Chinese fans want to see."
Wanting to stage a Woodstock-type music festival, Li says, "We worried about the crowds we would attract and the choice of artists, among a hundred other trivial things."
"But you get to see more grassroots music and music by big stars at festivals than you would at concerts. So you really experience the culture of outdoor music."