Portishead Roseland NYC Live
Portishead. Trip Hop masters. Beth Gibbons’ incredible voice. The bluesy funky beat of “Sour Times”. The big brass feel and beautiful rage of “All Mine.” A band that had beautifully mixed samples, blues guitar and achingly sad lyrics on their albums-1994’s Dummy and their self-titled 1997 album. How are they ever going to make that work live?
Well, it apparently wasn’t easy. They are backed by a 30 piece orchestra, and at that they don’t completely match the album performances– particularly on “All Mine,” which sounds far weaker than the original. However, for the bulk of the tracks, the slightly sparser performances work.
Gibbons’ vocals have been worth the price of admission themselves and this album is no exception. Collecting several of the bands’ best songs– “Sour Times” (of course), “Over,” “Glory Box,” and “All Mine”– her vocals remain intensely beautiful. Probably her best performance on the disk is “Roads” (one of the two tracks not performed at the Roseland). The slow intro, and then her soft moan… “can’t anybody see.” Her voice conveys both delicacy and power at the same time, no small feat.
The performance of Sour Times conveys a different mood. It is much darker and a little slower than the original (in fact it is the only track to undergo significant changes). It builds angrily from a grim intro. At the end, Gibbons voice becomes an angry wail, and the band is right there with her. One of the advantages of these performances is that one is perhaps better able to appreciate Adrian Utley’s excellent guitars.
All in all this is an album well worth picking up. If you haven’t heard Portishead before, I might suggest picking up Dummy or Portishead first, but this is still and excellent album. You can hear samples from many of the songs at the bands UK web site www.portishead.co.uk
Since I have had a busy month, dear readers, and since so many great albums have come out recently, I thought I’d provide capsule summaries of a number of them.
Beck Mutations. This is an excellent collection of mellower songs. The only really fast moving track is also the first single “Tropacalia,” a Latin based song. However the rest of the album wanders through sparser landscapes. Such folk tracks as “Bottle of Blues,” “Lazy Flies,” and “Sing it again” may not make you want to get up and dance, but they can create a beautiful reflective mood. Frankly, after listening to this album, I went and put on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited.
Various Artists For the Masses. Skip the rip off Depeche Mode “best of” that just came out and pick up this. Depeche Mode is an interesting group, and if you don’t have the albums I suppose that the “best of” might be worth it, but this album has the real goods. Tracks by Smashing Pumpkins (doing a reflective version of “Never Let Me Down Again”), the Cure (Robert Smith’s sexy vocals illuminate “World in my Eyes”) and Veruca Salt (doing a touching version of “Somebody”) beautifully capture Depeche Mode’s power. Particular mention needs to be made of Self– their version of “Shame” (long one of my favorites) is funky and cool.
P.M. Dawn – Dearest Christian, I’m So Very Sorry For Bringing You Here, Love, Dad. Depressing title, isn’t it? The album doesn’t get much more upbeat. Prince Be is really depressed these days, as tracks like “I Hate Myself for You” and “Misery in Utero” attest. However, this negative vibe plays well off of the albums rich soundscapes, particularly on such tracks as “Art Deco Halos”, “Hale-Bopp Regurgitations” and the aforementioned “Misery In Utero.” The first single “Being so not for you (I had no right)” is a tepid piece of R&B, but the rest of the album is well worth it.