Portishead, from their astounding appearance at Glastonbury 2010 and broadcast live by BBC 6 Music on June 26, 2010.
Portishead are often considered one of the pioneers of trip hop music. Formed in 1991, the band are named after the nearby town of the same name, eight miles west of Bristol, along the coast. Portishead consists of Geoff Barrow, Beth Gibbons and Adrian Utley, while sometimes citing a fourth member, Dave McDonald, an engineer on their first records.
Their debut album, Dummy, was met with critical acclaim in 1994. Two other studio albums have been issued: Portishead in 1997 and Third in 2008.
On 18 May 2008, Barrow expressed Portishead’s enthusiasm for recording new material on their official website’s blog, stating that he “can’t wait to write some new tunes”. On 28 September 2009, Barrow announced “big plans” for a new project with a new angle, hinting that an album could arrive as soon as late 2010. Whilst the album had yet to materialize, on 9 December 2009, the band released the song “Chase the Tear” for Human Rights Day to raise money for Amnesty International UK. Additionally, on 3 December 2008, Universal Music Japan reissued the albums Dummy and Portishead in limited edition on SHM-CD.
During Summer 2011, Portishead performed at a number of festivals in Europe, including, Pohoda Festival, Exit Festival, Benicàssim Festival in Spain, Rock Werchter, Paleo Festival, Roskilde Festival, the Hurricane/Southside Festivals in Germany, and the Super Bock Super Rock music festival. The band also headlined and curated the line-up for two All Tomorrow’s Parties music festivals entitled I’ll Be Your Mirror, in London at Alexandra Palace on 23 and 24 July.The second took place in Asbury Park, New Jersey from 30 September – 2 October. Portishead then visited several cities in North America, including New York, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Seattle, Vancouver, and Denver during October. The Chicago Tribune hailed the concert and noted: “horror-movie accents—Gothic organ, guitar lines thick with menacing reverb, spooky theremin—ensured a certain darkness”. They finished their tour with a jaunt to Australia and New Zealand. Barrow stated in a Rolling Stone interview that he would begin work on his portion of the album in January 2012, jokingly pointing out that it could be another decade before a new album is released.
In 2013 the band headlined the Other Stage at the Glastonbury Music festival and embarked on a European tour. In summer 2014, they played several concerts around Europe. 2015 saw Portishead continue to perform live, playing festivals such as fib (Benicassim, Spain), Latitude (Southwold, Suffolk, UK), and the Montreux Jazz Festival (Montreux, Switzerland). Additionally, Portishead produced a cover of ABBA’s song “SOS” for the soundtrack to the movie High-Rise which had a Gala screening at the London Film Festival on 9 October 2015. In 2016, the band won an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. On 22 June 2016, Portishead released an official video for “SOS” that recontextualized the song in the wake of the then-recent murder of MP Jo Cox and the Brexit vote, taking place the next day; the video ends with Beth Gibbons reaching her hand out towards the viewer and then a quote by Cox appears: “We have far more in common than which divides us.”
And for a bit of recent news regarding co-founder and lyricist Beth Gibbons – this portion of a March 30, 2019 review from the N.Y. Times by Alex Marshall:
By Alex Marshall
March 29, 2019
WARSAW — Beth Gibbons, the lead singer of the British band Portishead, released her first record in over a decade on Friday. But it’s not what you would expect from the singer whose wracked, yearning voice helped make Portishead a staple of every cool and heartbroken student’s dorm room in the 1990s.
After the pioneering trip-hop of the band’s debut album, “Dummy,” and industrial beats of its last, “Third,” Gibbons’s newest release is a recording of the Polish composer Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, known as the “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.”
Gorecki’s symphony, as its name suggests, is a doleful piece: The lyrics for one movement are taken from a message an 18-year-old scrawled on the walls of a prison during World War II. (“No mother, do not weep,” it begins.) That somehow didn’t stop it from being a surprise hit in the 1990s, with one recording selling over a million copies.
That might sound like safe ground for Gibbons, a singer who specializes in tragedy. But it was apparently anything but. For a start, the symphony’s vocal part is written for a classical soprano; Gibbons’s voice doesn’t go that high. And all the lyrics are in Polish, a language Gibbons doesn’t speak. . .
Needless to say, Portishead continue to be trailblazers – and if, for some reason, you aren’t familiar, I would urge you to click on the play button, but also go digging through a treasure trove of work by this astonishing group of artists.