About a year ago, I had a chance to see Portishead when they performed in Chicago on their too-brief U.S. tour. Being the prudent one, I decided to forgo seeing them in lieu of “dead week” (that last-ditch effort professors take to increase your study load before finals week). In hindsight, I could’ve gone and not missed anything. In a way, this album is a purgatory of sorts. It reminds me of what I might have experienced had I thrown caution to the wind and embarked to the Windy City.
In case you were living in a cave, Portishead released one of the best albums of 1997 with their self-titled sophomore effort. Delving with great relish into their world of noir beats, spy movie soundtracks, and femme fatale chanteuses, Portishead made everyone who had used the label “trip-hop” eat their words. It was a chilling effort that gave you goosebumps and made your spine shiver at the same time.
Live: Roseland NYC reveals a band that not only puts out great albums, but puts on one heckuva live show. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re backed up by a full orchestra, adding a certain elegance and swank to their gloomy textures. It also reveals a band that, if there was any justice in this world, would have been written a James Bond theme by now (but I guess that would be a little too perfect).
Beth Gibbons has been one of my favorite vocalists, and Live: Roseland NYC shows her at her peak. Although her voice falters here and there, she pulls off a stunning performance, especially on the sneering “All Mine” and haunting, tender “Roads.” All of the performances are spot on, especially on material from their debut Dummy. Earlier material is reworked and redone, to quite a nice effect. Geoff Barrow (the main man behind the music) puts his turntable skills to nice use, spinning samples that the band themselves wrote just for use as source material and adding a gritty urban edge.
The entire band gives a solid performance throughout the album, and truly shows that this concert was one to be at. Buy the album and see why Portishead is so critically-acclaimed (especially by this “critic”).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the other room kicking myself for not going to Chicago.
Note: While you’re buying this album, try and get the video as well. It features some tracks not on the album. The intro, a video montage of driving to the English town of Portishead with all of the songs mixed and spun together, is quite a nice treat.