Roseland NYC Live
By: Eric G.
The success of Portishead’s debut, Dummy, single-handedly enabled the spread of trip-hop across the globe even though Massive Attack probably deserves the credit for getting the ball rolling. It took three years of painstaking studio obsessiveness to create a self-entitled follow-up, but Geoff Barrow’s eccentricities paid off as Portishead upped the ante, creating an even more haunting and luscious soundscape. Beth Gibbons’ sometimes delicate/sometimes shrill soprano was the perfect complement to Barrow’s film-noirish soundtracks. This music seemed an unlikely candidate for live presentation because of all the loops, scratches and samples, but Roseland NYC Live makes an impressive case.
Backed by a full orchestra, Portishead's dirges are even more melodramatic live. Gibbons' voice soars amidst all the strings and scratching. The crackle and pop of an old vinyl album, which has become a standard ingredient in Portishead's sound, is even reproduced here. The setlist is unsurprising- six songs off Portishead and five off Dummy. "All Mine" has a seductiveness in its live form not present in its cold recorded version. It could almost pass for a James Bond theme. "Mysterons" unfortunately loses some of its impact in the transformation to a live setting, sounding distant and loose, but "Glory Box" and "Sour Times" are flawless representations of Dummy. The highlight of the whole album is "Only You" with its sudden stops and starts and its haunting bass line. Barrow spices up the breaks a bit with his turntable skills, but the driving force is Gibbons' truly harrowing voice. Roseland NYC Live is very worthy of your time.