Portishead tonight. Continuing with pivotal and influential bands the past few decades this week. Portishead have been considered pioneers in Trip-Hop, as well as having a firm base in Experimental and Alternative Rock.
But, like all bands which evoke and weave a complex and engaging soundscape, you can’t really classify them in any genre. Portishead are at once an atmosphere; propelled by the captivating voice of Beth Gibbons – painters of soundscapes and emotional tapestries – and that’s nothing you can put a finger on; and would you really want to?
Portishead, for me, has always been a band to listen to, not at. They don’t do well as background music, filler for parties or dead space occupiers. They’ve always been a challenge; not as something to withstand, but as an invitation to a journey – and that’s not something you take or leave or treat with ambivalence. It is one of the primary joys of music – to be grabbed and shaken by it, to be taken to another world, to be confronted by it. To ultimately feel something and come away different because of it.
This concert, from the Route du Rock Festival at St. Malo France and recorded on August 15, 1998 by Radio France FIP, comes around the time of their release of their second album, Portishead in September of 1997. It was the first tour in some three years, since the initial overwhelmingly positive reaction to Dummy, their first release, they withdrew in order to work on a follow-up. A year later they would call for an extended hiatus before resuming in 2005.
Their work is extraordinary and they have been considered one of the most influential bands of the 1990s, and their debut album has been considered one of the 500 greatest albums of all time. That’s pressure.
Have a listen to what the were up to in 1998.