“Portishead” Plays Vancouver

– PNE Forum, Vancouver

Monday, October 4, 2011

Beth Gibbons

Beth Gibbons

It is dissonance at its most refined: Bending pitches like no one’s business. Rhythms that weave together like an auricular kaleidoscope. Nobody Loves Me is a bit fast. Hunched-over-back, she’s got tight dark jeans – just like every other concert with footage I’ve seen of Beth Gibbons, lead singer of Bristol-born Portishead. With black long sleeves and a shiny auburn slick of hair, she is a death ornament on the stage, yet fixed she is with energy and light amidst the shadows.

Abundant instruments and speakers everywhere. The drummer rocks out hard and gets everyone’s pulse moving. Not as sexy as I was hoping. Better yet, she is formidable in her reluctance. The beats come in at the edges, built up on the syncopated – off the beat. It is unexpected and unconventional; it ties the audience to the stage, but those who look on don’t quite know how to tap their foot.

Adrian Utley, electronic mastermind

Adrian Utley, electronic mastermind

Wandering Star is epic. The guitarist’s subtle mastery of his slide and his tremolo. But the beat never drops… We hear just two guitars and her, and as she sings high and the tight vibrato penetrates us between the eyes, it is like a Theremin (or was it?). Perfect pitch. You can hear the choral beginnings. She’s English: it makes sense.

Awesome visuals: Fast still photography of light, drummers and pages from a journal. Changing later, we see B&W basements: a glimpse into the depths of their workings? Images of her singing live, like a ghost laid under sound waves of changing color and shape. White lines and clouds drift above. Above all the effect is challenging and luminous, together.

As my half-brother Bob and I are struck on at least three occasions with eyes welling up with tears of awe, he puts it most succinctly when he says “it’s like we are rolling in her wound”.

We are, indeed, and doesn’t that just feel good?

incredible light displays

incredible light displays, incredible show

© October 24, 2011

Photos taken from Vancouver’s online newspaper, Straight.com

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