This week I had the pleasure of visiting two of my very favorite people in one of the world’s most enjoyable cities for the Portishead show. No, we did not stumble into a portal which transported us back to 1994. Before we arrived, one of the crew asked what the crowd would be like. “Old,” I replied. Lest we forget that 1994 was 17 unforgiving years ago.Truthfully, I haven’t listened to much of Third, Portishead’s most recent record from oh-eight. During a certain moment in time, however, I wore Dummy out. In the mid-nineties, ubiquitous Dummy was in everyone’s collection, at least in my drugged-up slutty circles. Is there anything druggier or sluttier than Portishead? Sour Times for Good Times.Turns out, Portishead live is a deeply conflicting experience. Apart from some short-lived glitchy sound issues, the selections from Dummy were sublime. In particular, Wandering Star was a well-executed highlight. With regret I must confess I did not connect to their newer more “experimental” offerings. At their worst, Portishead sounded like the off-key bastard child of Sonic Youth and Evanescence. It was two songs worth of misery interrupted by an old familiar fave followed by more loud pain. The contrast was jarring. The crowd was especially limp and unresponsive to the less familiar material as is usually the case, but in this instance magnified. One review described the audience as “rapt,” which really wasn’t an accurate reading of my area of the room. Curious about the set list? Silence, Hunter, Mysterons, The Rip, Sour Times, Magic Doors, Wandering Star, Machine Gun, Over, Glory Box, Chase the Tear, Cowboys, Threads, with an encore: Roads, We Carry On.During Glory Box my friend leaned forward and yelled in my ear, “Oh yeah, this is that song from The Craft. I totally feel like I’m being sexually assaulted in the woods by Skeet Ulrich.” And that pretty much sums up the experience.
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