Portishead Last Night at The Shrine Auditorium
Courtesy of Patrick Fortner
Oct. 18, 2011
The Shrine Auditorium
Although Geoff Barrow has claimed in interviews that Portishead generally doesn't enjoy playing live, their performance last night at the Shrine Auditorium sure proved otherwise. The trip-hop pioneers did an outstanding job at capturing the melodic, dark and hypnotic feel of their records, and bringing them to life. Frontwoman Beth Gibbons, production mastermind Geoff Barrow, and guitarist Adrian Utley gave a mind-blowing performance that left us speechless, other than just saying "wow." The U.K. natives had an extra guitarist and Radiohead's second drummer, Clive Deamer, playing with the group, to add to their phenomenal performance. (Apparently, Clive is Portishead's drummer and he plays for Radiohead sometimes.)
Courtesy of Patrick Fortner
Opening with the song "Silence" off of the album Third, the crowd did exactly that. The very loud crowd in the auditorium went silent, completely entranced by Gibbons' enchanting vocals. Utley's dreamy guitar riffs blended with the incredible combination of Barrow and Deamer on the drums made for one hell of an opener. As the set continued, the auditorium remained quiet and in awe. At one point during the song "Glory Box," Utley played his guitar with a violin bow, which caused the crowed to let out hair-raising cheer. Although there wasn't much in the way of movement on stage, each song was packed with a tremendous amount of energy and passion. The set's dark feel and psychedelic visuals made you feel like you weren't in Los Angeles anymore.
Gibbons' singing was hypnotizing, especially on "Wandering Star"--perfect for the stripped down version they performed, which featured Barrow on the bass. It led to the extra-gritty live sound of "Machine Gun," and that song's fast-paced beats then led perfectly into the most aggressive song of the night, "Over," which included Gibbons screaming into the microphone.
After all of the aggression had been let out, the beautifully haunting sounds of "Glory Box" slowed down the night again, showcasing Gibbons jazzy, Billy Holiday-esque voice. Although these were great moments throughout the set, let's not fail to acknowledge Gibbons intimate moment with the crowd (which may take the cake for being the best part of the set). Even though she hardly said a word to the audience and hid behind her hair through out most of the set, while the band jammed out the end of "Roads," Gibbons jumped off of the stage, walked into the crowd and started giving hugs to the fans. It was a great way to end an outstanding show.
Although the set started 45 minutes late, Portishead put on an unforgettable show that made up for their lack of punctuality. Not having toured in over 10 years, the band looked and sounded better than ever. Although I didn't get the chance to see their Coachella performance back in 2008, last night's performance was phenomenal and so much better than I thought it would be.
Critic's Bias: Last October I met Geoff Barrow at the Troubadour in L.A after seeing him perform with his other band, Beak. He told me that there would be a Portishead tour to come, but that he didn't know when. He is an awesome (and truthful) dude!
The Crowd: Everyone was wearing lots and lots of black!
Overheard in the crowd: "I wonder how Beth Gibbons feels while performing on stage knowing that everyone in the crowd has had sex at least once to her music."
Random Notebook Dump: Right after thinking that the night was going to be pretty mellow considering how entranced the crowd was with Portishead's performance, I watched a really tiny girl chug what looked to be whiskey and immediately pass out. Too soon!
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