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You are in: Manchester > Entertainment > Music > Reviews > Portishead at the Apollo

Portishead (c) Shirlaine Forrest

Portishead (c) Shirlaine Forrest

Portishead at the Apollo

Truly great bands absorb their audience. Their performances are total, far deeper than a live rendition of songs. Portishead are one of the few truly great bands in Britain.

Before them, A Hawk And A Hacksaw support with aplomb. Three fiddles, accordion, oompah strap-on drums, a lively swap shop of instruments, all deadened bizarrely by the deafening murmur of the audience throughout the entire set.

Portishead (c) Shirlaine Forrest

Portishead (c) Shirlaine Forrest

Can three thousand whispers really be louder than a band?  This is a sad case of delicacy lost in polite impropriety. The band feature bags of perky chord changes and cheeky speed games. Zithery clarinets trading ditties with accordians and trumpets, bringing images of cantering circus horses, too much wild juice, whirling black skirts and flickering candlelight. This is what A Hawk and a Hacksaw are made of. 

A bare stage, blackout, palpitations. Did I know what I lost… we are transported back to the psychedelia of 1960s Britain with TOTP style live visuals. Defying key, convention and expectation in their opening song, Portishead ensure that we all know this is going to be a special event. ‘Mysterons’ cues a huge cheer, as the trademark trip hop beat kicks in. 

Portishead (c) Shirlaine Forrest

Portishead (c) Shirlaine Forrest

A whole theatre hypnotised by a depressing green beam. This band are sirens, cyborgs at the bottom of the ocean, pulling you down, luring you to the depths. Each song spell broken with red flood light, as a bow-played electric guitar and an amazing fade out ending thrills to the core.

Above it all, the haunted and haunting Beth Gibbons, constantly turning away to face her percussionist, her stance introverted and hunched up. Rather than feeling she is lacking in stage is presence, it is as if she is too scared to stand straight, as if all that emotion would spill out, too quickly, too heavily.

Portishead (c) Shirlaine Forrest

Portishead (c) Shirlaine Forrest

Her voice is impeccable, deep felt fibreglass magic, reaching its glass purity peak during ‘Wandering Star’. Seated on cheap chairs and pinpointed with spotlights, it reminds me of a confessional interview.  Gibbons’ honesty is so raw and real that at times it feels intrusive as an audience member.

Each song breathes, is minimal and perfectly enough, leaving a lasting impression of Portishead that is one of a group of highly creative musicians who don’t like showing off. It was a privilege to be invited into their world and it’s an experience I won’t forget in a very long time. If ever.

last updated: 14/04/2008 at 16:54
created: 14/04/2008

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