Roseland NYC / Portishead Live

Go Beat/London

If you saw their performance on Saturday Night Live, you already know Portishead as a force to be reckoned with on the live stage. Alternatively cutting and cloying, they can slice you to the bone while taking you to new heights of ecstasy. For example, in “Cowboys,” “talons fly,” whilst in “Glory Box,” lead singer Beth Gibbons claims, “I just wanna be a woman… and don’t you stop bein’ a man.” This is music that belongs in a James Bond movie, without a doubt. It’s atmospheric, ephemeral, and exciting. When Gibbons croons, “Did you really want… all for nothing,” on “Mysterons,” we’re alternately horrified and attracted to her sense of futility. The music itself resorts to some turntable-scratching, but thankfully, no rapping save the odd phrase. Standing out in the mist of bass-heavy arrangements, swirling synthesizers, and a very strong drum kit manned by Geoff Barrows, must be the extraordinary vocalizations of Beth Gibbons. She’s incredibly gifted, and she’s giving all she’s got. They’re not afraid to tackle orchestral arrangements. Neither do they fear emotional beak points. “Just give me a reason to love you,” croons Gibbons at one point. Yet the emotional showstopper of the record is not even the alternative radio and MTV hit “Sour Times.” It turns out to be “Roads,” a number that feels like it was tossed off during a disorganized tour. “Stoned, in the morning light, I feel … got nobody on my side, and surely that ain’t right… Oh, can’t anybody see, we’ve got to want to fight it, never find our way, regardless of what they say … how can it feel, this road?” It’s rather rare for a band to issue a live disc as their third release. Yet this one’s well justified. London Records, 825 Eighth Ave., 24th Floor, New York, NY 10019

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