Last night's live performance by Portishead was phenomenal. It took place in the Hammersmith Apollo, which is one of my favourite venues in London with its beautiful art deco style and good acoustics. We had seating tickets which wasn't preferable, but I feel lucky to have gotten any at all. The moment they went on sale Macsen had two phones and the ticket site on the go and they were selling out so fast that as soon as he'd select them and push "buy" they'd be gone. In the end I was glad for the seats with a clear view as the previous night we saw DeVotchKa with friends at the tiny Scala and while it was fun, I could barely see the stage at all (just the top of the tuba bobbing up and down). A Hawk and a Hacksaw was the opening band which was enjoyable, like DeVotchKa and Beirut they're heavily influenced by Balkan orchestras.
There was a vibe and excitement to the audience unlike any I had witnessed before, anticipation had built up so much that by the time Beth, Adrian, Geoff, and crew took to the stage the crowd exploded with cheers and shouts of, "We love you, Beth!" The P3 album cover appeared on the screen behind them and they kicked it off with "Silence" which, just as it does on the album, ends abruptly. Second up was "Hunter" which I love, but the P3 songs were new to most of the audience so there wasn't much initial excitement; you could tell the ones who already had the album as, like me, they were quietly singing along. Once they finished their "unveiling" of two fresh songs the crowd cheered in appreciation. Then the stage went blue as the first notes and record scratches of the familiar "Mysterons" were played and everyone went crazy. Beth's voice was unchanged and as heartbreaking as ever, she filled the room with her presence. After "Mysterons" they had some technical difficulties with the decks, which Beth explained and apologized for in her sweet Bristol accent, so they took 5 minutes to fix the problem and then started up one of their saddest songs "The Rip" which was accompanied by an interesting animated film -- the synth crescendo sounded great live. By the time "Glory Box" and "Numb" were playing I have to admit, I had a few tears. Beth went soft and breathy in all the right places on "Glory Box", it was my favourite song performed that night. The drums kicked in for another new song "Magic Doors" and everyone took it in, there was a good response to it when it finished. Next the stage went dark and Beth sat in a chair under a spotlight for a more acoustic version of "Wandering Star" which was beautifully done. "Machine Gun" was a highlight as it sounded amazing live, so much better than on the album. I wouldn't be surprised if they wrote it simply because they knew it would be mindblowing live, with the drum beats reverberating through bodies and Beth's high piercing vocals. I feel sad that I may not feel the intensity of that song being performed again, but I am grateful for the chance. There were a lot of stunned people after "Machine Gun" followed by cheers. Again when the familiar opening guitar chords for "Over" began people got very excited, same for the "Sour Times" and "Only You" which were passionately performed, but they were not album replicas which made me happy, I don't like live performances to be too "perfect". Another new song "Nylon Smile" also received a positive response, followed by "Cowboys" which Beth executed superbly in the same almost nasal and clipped voice as on the record with plenty of satisfying record scratches. There they stopped and left the stage for a brief pause before being called back out with roaring and stomping calls for an encore. When they retook to the stage the welcome notes of "Threads" started up, the booming guitar at the end didn't go on long enough for my liking but despite that it was still one of the best songs for me and it received a great response. One of the most anticipated songs of the night was the soulful "Roads" which many people seemed unable to stop singing along to at the start; Beth sung it with aching accuracy in the trembling timber of her voice, it floored everyone into rapt silence. The band capped off the evening with the stomping Silver Apples tribute "We Carry On" which was a perfect ending and as the song finished Beth jumped into the audience and began hugging people. I am intensely envious of the ones who were able to hug her, but it's incredibly awesome that she did it at all, it showed her real love and appreciation for the support and it made the crowd go into a frenzy as the band and Beth bowed and said goodbye.
Beth: "thank you so much for being patient, we were a bit dodgy, but you know it's really live!"
They monitored video taking closely so I was only able to get a short clip of "Roads"
and the end of "We Carry On" with Beth hugging audience members. Please pardon
the shaky camerawork, it's not easy keeping it steady at 12x zoom. In the
comments I have provided links to the best live videos I could find, I knew youtube
wouldn't let me down.
My final thoughts are that this was a concert of a lifetime. I have been to shows that are hard to top, but this has managed to partly down to sheer emotional intensity. Even the technical difficulties was hardly a blip on an otherwise incredible evening. The only downside was the typical London crowds being hyperactive and talking too much (why do they seem completely incapable of sitting still for more than 10 minutes? I wish the venue would spike their pints with ritalin. ;) The new songs all fit in and worked well in the set and yes, they're different from their older material, but they are amazing in their own right and work even better live. whorlpool I wish you could have been there. I'm left with the feeling that I have to see them live again, but I don't know if I will ever get the opportunity. I've already checked out the rest of their European dates for tickets but unsurprisingly they're all sold out, so I think I will just have to be satisfied that I saw them at all. If they make it to North America you must pounce on those tickets as soon as they appear. You will not regret it. :)
04 The Rip
05 Glory Box
07 Magic Doors
08 Wandering Star
09 Machine Gun
11 Sour Times
12 Only You
13 Nylon Smile
17 We Carry On
Interview with Portishead's Adrian and Geoff about their comeback and new sound:
Silence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNGLTj3GHag (P3!)
Mysterons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTeG58FrJS0 (best light show with this one)
The Rip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wv8eDyCD2o (I liked the animation)
Glory Box: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3_byuDhYQ0 (love!)
Numb: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGhFWJhqQnY (cool projection)
Magic Doors: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3wq5Xpvc-s
Wandering Star: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjUqZ6saVV8 (beautiful acoustic version)
Machine Gun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-_wwOxCXGc (brought down the house, shame no album or video can compare to live)
Sour Times: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dV2cgBf9UM
Only You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVuUJvEh9g0 (I have always loved that video)
Nylon Smile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNjw-GLmhAA
Threads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4LrdQIROAo ( <3 )
Roads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svCb1lMNfIA (better video than mine)
We Carry On: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TL0HNohTOEE (Beth loves up the crowd and then goes back for more)
... and now off to bed as I don't even know why I am up this late.
lucky. :) her voice is something special; it has hardly changed,
if anything I think it has even improved with age..
I hope you get the chance to see them again, I am keeping my
fingers crossed for a few more EU dates.. I have heard rumours
that there may be. :)
wow, awesome. Felt like I was there!
Portishead in Austin on the 2nd album tour is still my favorite concert of all time. They're playing Coachella, but that's not the way I want to experience it... *fingers crossed for a smaller venue tour!*
oh man, I wish I could have seen them back then as well! I hope you get a smaller venue too, if they're playing multiple nights try to get tickets for both so you're not left desperately wanting more as I have been. I'm even considering planning my next stateside trip around a gig of theirs if I can. :)
okay, 4am here.. really going to bed now!
Maybe they should send some of the ritalin they spike the drinks with here to London. Toronto crowds bore me to tears. I don't understand how anybody can go to a concert and not become 100% emotionally involved in it.
Anyway, I'm envious. Sounds like the concert was incredible! The thing about Portishead, too, is that every single song is great; they could play any setlist at all and it would be a great concert.
I don't understand unresponsive crowds either. I'm not sure why certain people at the Portishead concert were even there, they clearly had no interest or love for the music as an entire row of people in front of us strolled in halfway through the second song, others were talking on their mobiles or loudly with each other during quiet songs. When they had the 5 minute break for technical difficulties many people went out to buy more pints of beer only to return once again in the middle of a song and block the view of the stage. This was constant throughout the concert. I think they were just there because it was "the place to be" in London that night and that's all they cared about. I wish the venue did what the Barbican does which is not allow anyone to take their seats until between songs if they arrive late. There was a golden moment though when one man returned from the bar with 3 pints in hand and the usher asked him to sit down on the isle steps while the song finished, so he sat down and rolled onto his back spilling all the drinks on himself.
You are so right, I've been listening to them nonstop for the past few days and kept thinking the same thing to myself, it's all so solid. I hope you get the chance to see them!