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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Portishead -- Roseland NYC Live


Portishead's last aural document for a full decade was their live album, Roseland NYC Live. The band performed with an orchestra for a night during the US tour in support of their 1997 self-titled album, which I didn't so much review last week, as canonize. I won't song-by-song review this live album, like am doing with Portishead's three full-lengths of original material. I won't go too far in depth either. I wrote a college paper on the video version of this performance for a film class (got an A+ on that one), so I don't feel the need to pontificate on it for five pages. I'll simply say, the strings and live setting release a bit of the claustrophobia of the studio versions of these songs. They don't so much lesson or increase the atmosphere, as alter it, more fully revealing the band's film score influences. Ennio Morricone twangs through on "Cowboys" more than ever, and Bernard Herrmann's is detailed with the Vertigo-esque organs on "Only You," among others (heavy John Barry on "Only You," as well!). The track list leans on the self-titled album early on, but favors their debut, Dummy, heavily in the latter half. While most of these songs do an excellent job of presenting choice cuts from the band's catalogue in a slightly more cinematic fashion (and they were pretty damn cinematic from the start), the band take their most well-known song, "Sour Times," and completely reinterpret it as a slow-bubbling then violently erupting volcano. For this new arrangement's stunning conclusion, vocalist, Beth Gibbons, sounds like Janis Joplin after someone has rolled over her feet with a pickup--it's an incredible performance (actually taken from another show, and inserted here) is the entirety of this album. I think the studio albums are a better introduction to the band, but no advanced studies in Portishead is completely without a dive into Roseland NYC Live.

1998 Go! Discs/London
1. Humming 6:28
2. Cowboys 5:03
3. All Mine 4:02
4. Mysterons 5:41
5. Only You 5:22
6. Half Day Closing 4:14
7. Over 4:13
8. Glory Box 5:37
9. Sour Times 5:21
10. Roads 5:51
11. Strangers 5:20

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