Portishead - 12/03/1997

Portishead 1997

The Portishead show required another trip from Florida up to Atlanta, and by this time I was fairly sure that I would end up living in Atlanta eventually as there were just too many reasons that it was better than Tampa, Gainesville, or Tallahassee. I wasn't sure how Portishead would come across live since so much of what I love about them is the way the samples sound and the way that I can tell the music is built up from records instead of instruments. I have the same problem with a lot of rap shows, where MCs feel like they need to replace the DJ with a band and all of the nuance of the music gets squeezed out. Thankfully, Portishead avoided this by being a fucking amazing live band.

The show kicked off with a DJ taking the audience drolly through a history of records that Portishead has sampled. No shit. It was the most condescending opening act that I've ever seen, but it was all part of the plan so it must have seemed like a good idea to someone. It was on the one hand interesting to hear some of the records that got chopped into Portishead songs, but it was on the other hand annoying that the DJ felt like giving the audience a musical history lesson. Maybe that sort of thing wouldn't bother most people at a show like that, but having thought a lot about HOW Portishead makes their music, it just struck me as too gimmicky and snobbish.

After the DJ though, the band was fantastic. The drummer had two or three different snares to replicate the sound of the looped drums from the records and he was incredibly precise with that. I loved watching the guitar and organ and other instruments come together in an organic way that still stayed true to the very looped nature of the music, and the DJ cuts and sample loops over everything kept the old vinyl pop in place. I was frankly less interested in the vocals than I would have imagined because I was fixated on how well the band played those songs, made them dynamic, but also didn't lose what I loved about them in the first place.