live review for the skinny
Such is the dinner-party aesthetic that Portishead unwittingly acquired after Dummy, that it’s a minor surprise the Corn Exchange floor isn’t arranged with furnished tables for Beth Gibbons to lounge over. Instead the packed crowd is loud and excitable, and it’s no fun when a surplus of drunken lads are yelling “I just want to be a woman” to drown out Gibbons’ gentle plea. When she can be heard, Gibbons’ dramatic mewl pierces the atmosphere like a scythe, and Geoff Barrow demonstrates the devastating percussive force of the new songs when he replaces his DJ headphones with drumsticks. The core style of the old Portishead now informs the ‘filler’ of the new, but “Glory Box” and “Wandering Star” sit easily alongside the apocalyptic tones of “Machine Gun” and “Threads” because they’re united by Gibbons’ unique voice. Moments before the encore, she breaks her between-song silence to tell us we’ve been one of the best crowds they’ve ever had; be assured Beth, the feeling is mutual.