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Trudie Robinson gets gig goosepimples at the Apollo

Published on April 10th 2008.


If you release an album that just about everyone under 50 buys a copy of, then three years later follow it up with another hit; returning after a break of 11 years is always going to be a big deal.

Portishead’s 1994 debut Dummy was quite unlike anything that had been heard before. The closest to them in style at the time were fellow trip hoppers Massive Attack, but Portishead took a rich jazz sound added samples and gave them a world weary edge. Whilst Britain was gearing up for the guitar-orientated bands of Brit pop, Portishead were tuning up the theremin.

The result was a sound that somehow became synonymous with the young professional/middle class dinner party, an observation often noted in many of the articles heralding their return. This one’s no exception, but it has to be questioned why they were perceived as such. People must have been too busy munching on their crudités to notice that much of Portishead’s output was gloriously morose, full of longing and often portrayed a life viewed through the yellow-hued specs of disappointment.

So to the long awaited and as yet unreleased third album, aptly entitled Third. What’s it like? Well if the first two albums were the wistful, but sometimes bitter, swansong of a caged songbird, the tracks showcased tonight were a dark raging beast with teeth and what’s more, it’s hungry.

Taking to the stage in typical low-key Portishead style, the core members- Beth Gibbons, Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow- were joined by three musicians to breathe sufficient fire into the beastie. All dressed very simply in black, Gibbon in particular adopted her characteristically self-effacing, hunched-over-the-mic stance to deliver the lyrics and when she wasn’t doing so she, more often than not, was facing the band with her back to the crowd.

Coupled with the simple lighting, soaked in one or two colours, the music was left to speak for the band. The gig showcased two new songs from the off; where Dummy sat quietly on the coffee table, the new material was more likely to shatter it both metaphorically and physically by the sheer force of the reverb.

There’s an industrial sound to be found here in the likes of 'Machine Gun' whereas other tracks are hypnotic in their execution. Elsewhere there are more tender tracks; often sparse, pared down pieces such as 'The Rip' and 'Magic Doors'. In the set of new songs, there’s shades of such early eighties goth bands as Bauhaus, another is reminiscent of slowed up early PJ Harvey and there’s even strains of Kraftwerk to be found here. Visits to their first two albums resulted in some magnificent renditions of old favourites. 'Glory Box' was wonderfully sultry, 'Sour Times' magnificent and the rendition of 'Over' from the second album Portishead as the close to the main section of the gig made your ribs wobble with its wall of sound then 'Roads' in the encore was hauntingly goosepimple inducing. Overall it was quite, quite beautiful. Roll on the end of the month when the new album is finally released.

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GrandwazooApril 10th 2008.

Portishead 'dinner party music' you must be joking. Its more appropriate for some 'shooting gallery' as background music. Gotta admit they really used to depress me but i watched the live New York gig on TV one night (the one with the orchestral backing) it was truly great.they would be on the dream line up of miserablism : Portishead; (Laughing) Leanord Cohen; Morrissey - What a great night out that would be.

JinkiesApril 10th 2008.

Portishead are f*cking ace, it's about time they made a come back! Rock on the late 90's

eliApril 10th 2008.

went last night. we really enjoyed it - supposes whether you're a fan or not. there were a lot of fans there but some also-rans didn't quite carpe diem, though. one poor soul was bored enough to reach for her mobile phone and start playing solitaire. poor cow. we enjoyed it though.

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