Portishead - Shrine Auditorium - October 18, 2011
October 18, 2011
Better Than: Playing with this bow and arrow.
Patience is a virtue Portishead fans must have in spades. Then again, this has never been a band for people in a hurry. So it took them three years to tour on an album released in 2008? What are you gonna do besides just see the damn show? Because, given their track record, who knows how long it will take them to put out another album and do another tour?
"Nobody loves me, it's true -- not like you do." It's simple, it's straightforward, it's easy to understand. Portishead's trippy and often jarring confluence of opposing musical ideas have plenty of lyrics that are easy to latch on to, even when the music isn't.
With this current tour, Portishead demonstrates again the importance of taking us gently by the hand and gaining trust before leading us into unfamiliar territory. For fans fattened on Portishead's densely layered first two albums, the sparseness of 2008's Third came as a shock, pointedly lacking the sort of easy toeholds that helped listeners gain their balance with Dummy and Portishead.
Yet the structure of last night's set seemed to anticipate this response, and to answer it by interspersing plenty of the comforting familiarity of their 1990s releases with newer material. This strategy made it easier to see Third's music not as a radical shift but as a logical step on the continuum.
In the background, the black-and white-imagery and live video of the band flickering and jumping like an old timey art film underscored the offerings: a mixture of old and new. The inappropriately-named Shrine Auditorium -- which actually feels more like a warehouse than a place of worship -- is long and narrow, which means that about 75% of the audience has a poor view. This made the video the primary viewing experience for most. Portishead's luscious misery would be better suited to a venue where the ceiling feels like it could close in on you, not one where it seems miles away.