The band that put Bristol on the map

Nationality: UK

Genre: Experimental downtempo trip-hop


The Westcountry doesn’t produce too many famous names in music, but in the nineties Bristol spawned a number of ‘trip hop’ experimental acts, the biggest of which were Massive Attack and this lot – Portishead. Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley make the sounds, and Beth Gibbons adds her enchanting voice (does this girl ever miss a note?) to create one of the most perfect chillout ambiences of recent years.

Their 1994 debut album, Dummy, is a must on any serious record collection. Very arguably it is THE definitive trip-hop album, with its seminal songs like Numb, Sour Times and Glory Box. If you can’t appreciate the brilliance of tracks like those, then there has to be something tragically wrong with your ears. The self-titled follow-up, including All Mine, Over and Only You, perhaps without quite having that ‘classic’ quality to it, is every bit as good.

Everybody was talking about the ‘Bristol sound’. Well, not everybody. Some people preferred to talk about astrophysics and the price of Ikea furniture. But a lot of people were talking about the ‘Bristol sound’. However, Portishead slipped off in the direction of solo projects and what-have-you, and for ten years released no new material and didn’t play live again until 2007. A ‘hiatus’ they call it in the biz. Later that year, they finally brought out their third album, for reasons too complex to discuss here called ‘Third’. It had been a long wait, but people hadn’t forgotten Portishead, and the new album was both a critical and commercial success.

Portishead have continued to work together, and have become regulars on the festival circuit, including appearances at Primavera Sound in 2008 and at Benicassim in 2011. There is always talk of another Portishead album coming out, but rather like their music, they are evidently in no hurry – Barrow recently stating that it could well be “another fucking ten years” before they get it finished. It’s so crude when people use words like that, isn’t it?

Other than festivals, this is the first time we’ve seen Portishead in Spain for more than a decade, and they’re here to appear in the Poble Espanyol – which strikes us as the absolutely perfect venue for their kind of stuff. So perfect in fact, that the Bristolians reckon they can fill the place two nights in a row. Do they realise June 23 is San Juan night in Barcelona? Expect fireworks.

It’s quite some privilege to have them here for two nights, because the tour isn’t even a particularly extensive one. They have also added that both concerts will be extended to Razzmatazz later on in the night. Exactly what that means nobody knows. We’ll have to wait and see. No worries, Portishead fans are used to long waits.

Did you know: Portishead is a town just outside Bristol, which also happens to be the place where Eddie Large of Little & Large fame now lives. For the sake of non British readers, this was a comedy duo on eighties TV. And they were crap.


Friday June 22 and Saturday June 23, 2012 Barcelona Poble Espanyol


1.  Silence

2.  Hunter

3.  Nylon Smile

4.  Mysterons

5.  The Rip

6.  Sour Times

7.  Magic Doors

8.  Wandering Star

9.  Machine Gun

10.  Over

11.  Glory Box

12.  Chase the Tear

13.  Cowboys

14.  Threads

Encore:  15.  Roads

16.  We Carry On


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