Descending upon the Obelisk Arena on the famed Saturday night headliners’ slot, the band strode out, picked up their instruments and from the off, those warped baselines and sinister overtones were played with absolutely no apologies. It took me a while to locate front-woman Beth Gibbons who didn’t even have a spotlight on her to begin with, instead standing with her back to the crowd waiting for her moment to join in with her vocals.
Some may argue it was a gradual start which got into its full stride by four/five songs later’s Sour Times, where Gibbons’ heartbreaking ‘nobody loves me’ pierced through even the proudest of egos. An ‘unplugged’ version of debut album Dummy’s Wandering Star had the audience wide-eyed in trance-like awe; despite being of the more well-known Portishead tracks, not a soul dared to sing along, instead respectfully admiring.Things were kicked into a deranged step up from overdrive with the unforgiving barrage of drums in the form of Third’s Machine Gun. Powerfully political and as anti-tory as they come, David Cameron’s face amended with blue beams of sinister light coming out of his eyes, sent the crowd into crazed frenzies of rebellion. Fan-favourite Glory Box came a track or two later and rather than singing along, once again the crowd simply gazed on with infatuation, swaying along to those hypnotic strings. The group then exited the stage with another of Third’s gems, Threads.
And then came the encore. The trip-hop legends returned to the stage shortly, but with another singer, a slightly scruffier one at that, one who had no spotlights or lighting on him. Wait that couldn’t be who I think it is, is it?
That’s right, none other than Radiohead’s Thom Yorke was brought out for one of my personal favourites, The Rip. Subtly used despite the magnitude of his being, singing harmoniously along with Gibbons, never overstaying his welcome or outperforming each other, just exquisitely utilised. Roads rounded up a flawless outing from the Bristolian group, and We Carry On brought things to an eventual close.
Portishead are without a doubt up there with one of the best acts I’ve ever seen. Faultless vocal and instrumental performances, intricately perfected light shows and incredible visual accompaniment, perfectly utilised guitar solos and ‘record scratch’ solos, and a genius cameo from Thom Yorke to round off a flawless performance, I’m already ready for my next one, although when that is will be forever in Portishead’s hands.
Verdict – WWWWW