Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hop-Trip or A Sort of Homecoming

Portishead at Carling Academy, Bristol

This is a startling group. This is a startling group. Portishead really pulled it off last night. Reportedly this was only the band’s second concert in a decade but no rust was detected. The trademark sound was sharp and powerful, a strong fusion of more traditional instrumentation and hop-hip scratchin’, knob-twidllin’ and riddim-makin’ with the crystal clear and bewitching voice of Beth Gibbons forming the touchstone to everything. Afore an arty monochrome backdrop, the collective, monochrome also, produced a stunning set of old favourites from the Dummy and Portishead long players as well as some compelling and thoughtful fresh material. The newer stuff included some rather pastoral sounds reminiscent of Ms. Gibbons’s alt-folk recordings with Talk Talk’s Paul Webb. I approved. The older numbers sounded perfect, a series of sad songs underpinned with eerie musical brilliance. I note with some chagrin that there was no room for It Could Be Sweet on the setlist but all other bases were covered luminously. A moody yet uplifting Sour Times was a soaring highlight but a sassy, classy Glory Box and a pensive and brooding Roads were equally glorious. But, it has to be stated, all of the recital was stunning. Behind the timid and tiny Gibbons, the Geoff Barrow figure stood out, hunched o’er his turntables like a witty wizard scratching feverishly at his vinyl with aplomb and style. He was fantastic. Adrian Utley smiled more than the others while his studied guitar shapes added refined textures to the whole darned thang. As a unit, the band, augmented by other players, sounded amazingly fresh and the songs so contemporary that I had to physically check that Dummy was released in 1994. It could have been yesterday.

No comments: