The Portishead Experience - ATP & NY, 2011


How can I even start? In the mid to late 90's my little sister and I listened to very different music. She would go off on 3/4/5 day raves somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the south of France, listening to all sorts of techno/hardcore/dub/goa/drum and bass. I would mainly be found in goth clubs dancing the night away, or at an extreme metal show. Neither of us were very mainstream, and still aren't today, and although I would sometimes jump in a car and go off to find a rave with her, or she would come out dancing with me, there really was no musical common ground between us at that time. Until Portishead and Massive Attack. That musical middle ground between the two of us, bands we could both love equally.


I had never seen Portishead live until this week. And this week I had the amazing opportunity to see them FOUR times. Twice at ATP thanks to my wonderful friends Dana and all of the Thought Forms band members, and twice here in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom, thanks again to my Charlie, Deej and Guy from Thought Forms. They all made a dream come true not just once, but four times. Every single time Portishead played I was blown away by the amazing sound, by the fact that they may just sound even better live than they do recorded (and yes, this IS possible), and by the effect they still have on me. I had goosebumps, cried, laughed, jumped up and down, felt immensely sad and then immensely happy and wanted to tell all my friends I loved them. All within the 90 minutes they played each night. Over and over again, all kinds of different emotions and feelings with every song, every note.

Seeing the same band four times in a row, especially with a setlist that remains very similar on each night could have been a little boring towards the end, but not with Portishead. I was mesmerized from the first note of the first performance to the last note of We Carry On last night. I feel so lucky and privileged that I was able to attend all of these shows...

It was wonderful to see how the crowd reacted in the same way as I did: some had tears pouring down their faces, others were dancing, singing along and just really enjoying the amazing show. I already knew Beth Gibbons had one of the most beautiful, powerful and emotional voices I have ever heard, but live it is so much better than you can imagine. During the stripped down live version of Wandering Star, with just Beth on vocals, Adrian Utley on guitar and Geoff Barrow on bass, Beth's voice sounds so haunting it still sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it. I do wish they had played It's A Fire, just once, because that is the song I send to my sister whenever I feel sad, but honestly, the setlist is amazing enough as it stands.


I don't have the exact setlist for each night, but you are sure to hear most, if not all of the following songs if you are going to see them on this tour: Silence, Nylon, Hunter, Mysterons, The Rip, Sour Times, Magic Doors, Wandering Star, Machine Gun, Over, Glory Box, Chase The Tear, Cowboys, Threads, Roads, We Carry On (if you are front row you may even be lucky enough to give Beth a hug during this last song).

I can't wait for my little sister to see them when they get to California, just so that she can have exactly the same experience I did.


And this is why I love music so damn much, for this amazing effect it has on me. I really don't have anything else to say, as I want to be able to keep some of the experience close to my heart, so just listen, and enjoy.