Portishead: Roseland NYC Live

I’ve been trying to return Portishead’s Roseland NYC Live to Yoichi for weeks but it refuses to leave my CD player, or my head. It’s hard to try and describe without sounding pretentious, but there’s an incredibly palpable extra dimension the tracks take on when played live that makes the studio versions (which I’ve loved for years) seem sterile in comparison. There’s a sense of weight and texture, of empty cold cavernous spaces the songs inhabit and move through. Feels perfect these winter nights.

Moments I love:

Somewhere around the fourth minute of Mysterons: quietly menacing lower strings, reverberating warped walls of sound, upper strings clawing their way up, up, up to climax, and then? Soft. Shadowy. Tiptoe to a close.

In Over, when the drums first kick in. They really put the whammy on you.

Spiralling claustrophobia in Glory Box starting from “This is the beginning of forever”. A feeling of eyes rolling back in your head and flashing lights behind your eyelids until the return to “I’m so tired” leaves you paradoxically gasping both to catch up and slow down.

The vocals in Roads. One moment eerily ethereal and perfect the way they echo through the air, the next moment plaintive and pleading and quaveringly imperfect, every moment of this song just feels imbued with poignance and longing and regret and I never ever want to listen to it when depressed, but for now it’s amazing.

All Mine is the only track that feels vastly inferior here from its album incarnation. The horns just don’t feel as sexy and imperious and James Bondy. In general the song just seems to lack that whole “fuck with me and I’ll beat the shit out of you and you’ll love every minute of it” vibe. Which is quite a pity.

Great album. I hope Yoichi’s a patient man.