Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 7/23/09
Months before the release of the band's self-titled album in late September of 1997, Portishead made an one-off appearance at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. Premiering new tracks from their upcoming album, the band was accompanied by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The appearance was also filmed for a video project that would include a promo for the lead single All Mine from the upcoming album. Buzz over the appearance as well as the acclaim for the new album finally helped make plans for another release to capitalize on their appearance. A live album and video release was made entitled Roseland NYC Live or sometimes called PNYC.
Produced by Portishead, the live album features material mostly recorded from the band's famed appearance at the Roseland Ballroom on July 24, 1997 in New York City. Along with a couple of tracks from a 1998 show in San Francisco and another from a 1998 festival appearance in Norway. It's a record that encompass the band as a live act with songs from their first two albums given a broader sound. A lot of which were accompanied by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. While it's not up to par with their studio albums, it's still a fascinating live album from Portishead.
The album opens with Humming from Portishead's self-titled release as string instruments start to tune with the sound of an eerie theremin starting to arrive for the song. With a slow, thumping beat accompanying Beth Gibbons' soothing, ethereal vocals with turntable scratches from Geoff Barrow. With its haunting presentation led by a theremin, the orchestra starts to arrive with ominous string arrangements including a thumping bass line that plays through. Cowboys is a full-on electronic track with Adrian Utley's shimmering, growling guitars, Barrow's frenetic turntable scratches, and Gibbons' snarling vocals. With live drums accompanying the sound along with a bass by additional musicians, it adds a new intensity to the song as it revels in its dark tone along with swooning string arrangements. All Mine with its melodic string and horn arrangements, hard-hitting snare beats, Utley's growling guitars, funky rhythms, and Gibbons' operatic vocals is one of the highlights of the record. Even as it revels in its jazz-like presentation with Gibbons' vocals being the highlight in its chorus.
Mysterons, from Dummy, with Utley's melodic arpeggios and Barrow's warbling turntable scratches along with a theremin accompaniment and sputtering drum fills helps maintain the mood of the performance. With Gibbons' vocals filled with anguish in its angelic style, it's a song that is trance-like in its mood. Only You is a slow yet throbbing track led by its groove-laden bass line, soft horn arrangements, and Barrow's turntable scratches featuring a sample from the Pharcyde. With Gibbons singing softly in its dark, melancholic presentation which includes some weird arrangements from the turntables as well as its soothing orchestral arrangements. Half Day Closing is another dark, bass-groove driven track that features slow tempos, swooning electronics, and Gibbons' vocals singing through a garbled vocal device. With soft string arrangements accompanying Gibbons' vocals in its intense performance, it adds a haunting layer to song.
Over arrives with Utley's slow, plucking on the guitar as Gibbons sings in a calm, evocative vocal style with its dark, despaired lyrics. With hard-hitting beats meshed with live drum fills, bass-heavy grooves, and soft yet heavy string arrangements, it's a song that revels in its heavy sound with a soft-heavy-soft-heavy song structure. Glory Box arrives with a smooth, throbbing rhythm and swooning keyboards meshed with Barrow's turntable scratches that features a sample of Issac Hayes' Ike's Rap II. With Gibbons singing in a snarling presentation with a more angelic tone for the chorus, it is one of the band's most famous cuts as it includes some amazing vocal work from Gibbons. From a 1998 performance in San Francisco is Sour Times. With a slower tempo, more growling guitars, and ominous electronic arrangements that include more warbling turntable scratches. Gibbons' vocals are also more intense as it's a more eerie version than the original recording.
From a 1998 appearance at a Norwegian music festival is Roads, the soothing, trance-like cut from Dummy. With audiences clapping to the song's rhythm, it is led by its layered, swooning arrangements of synthesizers and Gibbons' angelic, wailing vocals. With Utley's soothing guitar riffs, it plays up to the calming atmosphere of the song making it one of the album's highlights. The last track on the live album is Strangers opens with a wailing siren that is latter accompanied by tapping beats, spurting guitar riffs, and Gibbons' somber yet angelic vocals as audiences clap along to the song's funky rhythm. With Barrow's warbling electronic arrangements and heavy strings that help intensify the performance with screeching violins and heavy sounds to play up the song's presentation.
Released in November of 1998, the album was accompanied by a VHS release that featured five additional tracks. All of which from the July 1997 show at the Roseland Ballroom. The record was acclaimed with critics and fans of the group while at the end of the year, Portishead took a break. All of a sudden, that break would become an extended hiatus in which the members of the group worked on side projects and other things while dealing with personal issues. In 2002, a DVD release for the live album was released along with the band's music videos and the short film To Kill A Dead Man. From 1999-2005, no one would hear anything from Portishead where they would disappear until 2008 when they returned with their third album entitled Third.
Roseland NYC Live is an excellent live record from Portishead. While it may not have the haunting soundscapes of their studio releases. It's really a record for fans of the band while its DVD release is more superior than the material on the live album. While the record has flaws in terms of sequencing and some overdubs that is typical with live recordings. It's still a fascinating record that fans of Portishead as Roseland NYC Live is something that fans must have to hear the band live when they were at their peak in the late 1990s.
(C) thevoid99 2011