Those familiar with Portishead will read this article and think that I am not doing them justice. I agree and I strongly apologize in advance, since such a band can merit more than a college-level student gushing over their work.
It’s October 6th, 2011, the very beginning of our luscious Indian summer. Portishead takes over the stage at the Quai Jacques Cartier. A crowd of devotees aged mostly 25+ gathers to take part in what is for them a sort of reminiscence of their adolescence/early adulthood. I can’t say the same for myself, since I am still a teenager. Regardless of age, everyone present is suddenly immersed in Portishead’s signature sound when they start with ‘Silence’.
What ensues is a two hour long set list of unbelievable magic that ranges from their 1991 debut Dummy to the latest Third: guaranteed hits like ‘The Rip’, where singer Beth Gibbons rips out a part of your heart and uses it to fuel the sadness of the song; ‘Machine Gun’,makes you feel like the sound coming out of the speakers is hitting and penetrating each inch of your skin like bullets from an actual artillery weapon; and ‘Glory Box’ generates uniform movement and hypnosis from the crowd.
For those few blissful hours, the warm wind, the throng of individuals moving to the music, the combined lights of the surreal effects of the stage’s screen and the lights emanating from the buildings of the Old Port, and your emotions and thoughts seem to move and form with the spellbinding music. They transport you to an exclusive niche removed from the rest of Montreal so that it’s only Portishead, you, and your countless comrades.
As soon as it started, it’s over. The band leaves the stage, with no words of adieu. The stage is still lit. Concertgoers are clapping and screaming for more. The band does not need much coaxing to return and once again grip you in with a stunning and emotional performance of ‘Roads’ and an all but too appropriate ‘We Carry On’.
The band leaves for good, the lights go off, and the crowd turns to leave. But as you walk away you can’t help but feel that you have undoubtedly experienced something that very few get the chance to take part in. This experience will be carried out in your mind for a long while.
Set List (if you wish to recreate it in your basement/room):
2) Nylon Smile
4) The Rip
5) Sour Times
6) Magic Doors
7) Wandering Star
8) Machine Gun
10) Glory Box
11) Chase the Tear
15) We Carry On