Sunday, February 03, 2008

Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Friday: Portishead

(Centre Stage)

Portishead were playing two gigs over the weekend, but a rationing system meant that you were allocated a night to go and see them. It is so long since I lived in a flat of Portishead lovers that I had largely forgotten what a great band they are. That said, my appetite was well whetted by a purchase of Dummy in the week before the festival. The band really delivered the goods at this concert. If you liked them before and can remember what they did, you would know what to expect here in broad terms – Beth Gibbons' voice, twangy tremolo heavy guitar from Adrian Uttley and hip hop stylings courtesy of Geoff Barrow. A lot of people went on afterwards about Gibbons' voice (and it is a great voice, even more so live than on record), but this maybe obscures the input of the other two. Uttley's guitar work was revelatory, burying the idea of his being the band's norbert. Barrow seems to have mutated into some kind of multi-instrumentalist (or maybe he always was, and I was not paying attention).

It is interesting to think back on how the prehistory of the Sheds. I have always thought of Geoff Barrow as having been the original leader of the band, or at least the person who put them together. It would not surprise me if he recruited Uttley and Gibbons initially as virtual session players, only to realise that he had gold dust in his hands. To his credit, he gave them their heads and made the band far more than it would have been as initially envisaged. Does anyone know if this model of the band's early days bears any relation to reality?

Subsequently I wondered about the second Portishead album. Can anyone tell me if it is any good or not? My recollection is that no one bought it… the world had moved on by the time it came out and they were no longer flavour of the month, meaning that trend people shunned it. Hipsters, meanwhile, started to wonder if maybe Portishead had all along just been making coffee table music for yuppies, so they didn't buy it either. What say you, Internet?

7 comments:

Andrew Farrell said...

The story I heard was that Geoff Barrow was always in the trip-hop scene since there was one, though the fact that I've often quoted that he was a teaboy on the Blue Lines sessions may not actually stand up to examination. Allmusic.com says that Portishead started when he met Beth Gibbons, and Utley "rounded out the band". What are the actual writing credits for Dummy?

kvlol said...

Don't know about the second album but Roseland NYC Live Is pretty flawless! The DVD was pretty good as well iirc.

flossyla said...

I saw them many years ago playing at the Olympia. I was stuck up in the gods but the music made a massive impression on me.
I have to agree with the crowd - Beth Gibbon's voice is just astounding live. All round though the band were great - I can still recall sitting there looking at them bathed in blue light. The music just came booming towards us. One of my favourite gig memories.

Andrew Sherman said...

Dummy did get a bit tired after a while. My family has been given 2 extra copies as gifts over the years by people who were excited to have discovered it. I have the 2nd CD at home in a box. I also bought that "Out of Season" Gibbons solo thang for my spouse, I liked that one better.

ian said...

Andrew F, the songwriting credits on the first album are typically Barrow-Gibbons-Uttley, with a couple of Barrow-Gibbons, and a few more that throw additional song-writing credits to sample sources.

ian said...

Andrew S - I heard a bit of that Beth G and Rustin Man record, but I thought BG sounded like she was impersonating Billie Holliday, only not in a good way.

Niall said...

I wish someone would tell me what's so wrong with the second album. I loved it, love it, and just don't understand why it's apparently disregarded. But then what do I know?