Portishead @ Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 13th April 2008.
June 1995, I am stood baking in the heat waiting for Portishead to arrive on stage at Glastonbury, arriving over an hour late, the tension in the packed tent is amazing, when they hit the stage, the show is equally as tense and amazing. Raw, edgy and about as British sounding as you could get without being corny this was a band at the peak of their creativity. Fast forward 13 years and I am stood in the unconvincing Civic Hall in Wolverhampton. No late turn ups tonight but there is still tension and an air of anticipation in the air, many of the people have been waiting 10 years or more to see this gig. The is always a danger of playing unreleased new material to a crowd of devoted fans, the new material on first impression sounds good, its challenging and retains that broodiness and tension, Portishead are famed for. However its new material so no one can sing along and you can see some of the die hard fans want Portishead from 10 years ago. The reception to the new tunes especially to the new single Machine Gun is very good on the whole. The set is a mix of 5 new tunes and about 10 classics from the first 2 LP’s. The Mysterons, Glory Box and Sour Times all get aired to great response but its Numb and a fantastic Wondering Star that are my favourites tonight. It’s a bit of a shame but the overall feeling I get about tonight is that it’s all running through the motions a bit. All of the band look as miserable as hell, other than Beth, come on you have not toured in 10 years look as if you are enjoying it because I bet it is fun. Beth Gibbons is the saving grace for tonight’s show, this woman has a unique and incredibly powerful voice, enough to stop me dead 13 years ago, enough to do the same tonight. There are flashes of brilliance, when Sour Times lets rip, oh it lets rip, Numb is dark and nasty but other than Wondering Star which is drastically stripped down to just Beth and guitars you really wonder what Portishead have been doing for so long.