Venue: Wolverhampton Civic
Rating: * * * * *
The 90s were a frighteningly long time ago. This is an unavoidable fact of life. As, it seems, is the neverending torrent of reforming bands from that very same decade. Portishead have faced a greater challenge than most in their return to the world of music because the ‘trip hop’ movement that they had helped define has since met its demise. Their new album has thus been a reinventioin of the Portishead sound- indeed, one so different that it is only the stunning voice of Beth Gibbons that reminds us that this is the same band from a decade ago.
The difference in the two styles becomes plainly obvious when seen live. The past is what people are here to hear – a nostalgia for those songs that they had angst over as teens in the twilight years of Thatcherism. There can be no doubting the immense organic beauty of classics like ‘Roads’ and ‘Mysterons’. But it is the future, however, that Portishead are understandably most interested in, and the picture they paint is a bleak one. Agressive pummeling drum beats and electronic percussion punctuate their new songs, with only the angelic voice of Gibbons offering a shard of human emotion. The explicit contrast between old and new is a chilling reminder of how much things really have changed.