Portishead | Glastonbury 2013

Portishead might as well close their shows with, “Oh, thanks for listening, we’re still the best damn band on the planet.” I usually don’t post a whole lot regarding music festivals (Kanye’s epic Coachella 2011 performance not withstanding), but I couldn’t help it after watching this wonderful BBC video of Portishead at Glastonbury 2013. (Even the slow video fade-in to the band at the beginning of the track is well done.) This was and still remains a band for grown-ups. A note to all bands out there: Watch Portishead perform “We Carry On” from off their most recent release, 2008’s “Third”. This is how it’s done. (Yes, this band is so good they still get gigs at places like Glastonbury only having made three albums over nineteen years, with the last coming five years ago.) In this performance, the band is tightly synced and aggressive. The rhythm is hypnotic and neurotic. Adrian Utley’s atmospherics perfect. Beth Gibbons intense. Geoff Barrow and Co. blowing this track up. (Along with ripping through 12 other songs, including my favorite “Over”, “Chasing the Tear”, “Glory Box” and the doomed cinematics of “Cowboys”.) It was a masterclass on all levels. For my money, at their best, Portishead is unrivaled. Gibbons, after leading a virtuoso nine-and-a-half minute performance of “We Carry On”, leaves the stage, hugs every fan in the front row, runs back across and onto the stage, with just enough time to grab a swig and a smoke before the song’s close. She timidly (or coyly?) says to Glastonbury fans, “I hope we were all right.” What more is there to say about Portishead? While lesser bands prance around stage, center-piecing gimmicky displays, Portishead’s power rests in the band’s stillness and lack of theatrics. Less is more. It says something tremendous about a band, that when you listen to a song they created five to six years ago, it sounds as modern, prevailing, and alluring as ever. Note: Images above are cropped screen captures from the BBC video. — David D. Robbins Jr.

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