The Club at Firestone, Orlando • 3.19.98

While considered by many to be the most prominent pioneers of trip-hop, the members of Portishead transcend the scratches and beats of their peers by saturating their songs with moods that are dreary or distressed yet accessible commercially. This is the result of a focus on emotional melodies and the influence of the grandiose sound spectrums present in the film scores of composers such as Ennio Morricone and John Barry. Heading Portishead through all the infectious doom and gloom is Geoff Barrow, founding DJ and drummer, and Beth Gibbons, expressive yet shy chanteuse. The lesser-known third of Portishead’s core of composers is guitarist, keyboardist, and coproducer Adrian Utley. Helping the trio achieve their distinctive sound(s) is Dave McDonald, engineer and producer. These four key players are what make Portishead Portishead.

Supporting their self-titled sophomore release, Portishead went on a tour which featured two American legs. The first brought them to Atlanta’s Roxy Theatre, while the second brought them to The Club at Firestone in Orlando. Both shows were absolutely remarkable. The only actual disappointment (and I hate to admit it) was Geoff Barrow’s inclination to keep his scratches true to those captured in the studio. It would’ve been quite interesting to have heard him go off a bit more. Andy Smith, the opening DJ, was likely to have made more of an impression with his turntables. Oh, well. Other than that, I can’t imagine any of the band’s fans having anything to complain of. The magnificent Beth Gibbons managed to make her emotions seem more intense, especially during the frantic reworkings of several songs’ endings and the revamped version of “Sour Times” (which, incidentally, echoed their 1994 “Airbus Reconstruction”). Adding discord to her turmoil was Adrian Utley’s reverberative guitar work. Clive Deamer, having been the one to mete out most of the beats on both Portishead albums, had absolutely no difficulty keeping the drums rolling and resounding on through “Mysterons” and beyond. His real drum set was accompanied by a real (and mostly upright) bass, played to perfection by Jim Barr. Completing the live Portishead ensemble was John Baggot, concert keyboardist and Bizarro Paul Schaffer.

All in all, anyone who attended either show was undoubtedly delighted to catch one of the most influential bands of the nineties live and in top form. Fans can only hope that the future will bring us more Portishead releases and tours. Plans have been made for the release of a live video. For more information, check out http://www.portishead.co.uk

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