Just before the release of their eponymous second album, Portishead gathered at the historical Roseland Ballroom for their first ever performance in New York City. The band brought a film crew along for this special concert. It was a show that featured not only the first performance of much of the new album, but also the added attraction of playing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The result is a brilliant and haunting presentation of all things Portishead. This legendary disc should be required viewing for …ll fans of trip-hop, and for film students everywhere.
Oddly enough, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track provided to support this feature is actually a 4.1 track, with no sound whatsoever coming from the center channel. Personally, I like this approach on concert DVDs. This is one place where the vocal should not come entirely from the television, but should be seamlessly mixed in with the music. This minor tweak makes all the difference, as the band can be crisply heard, completely submersed in their lo-fi glory. All of the static and distortion available on this soundtrack is there because it is supposed to be there. The band is made up of musical purists, and the audio track meets that standard head on.
The video quality on this disc is quite interesting. It’s certainly not the crystal clear presentation that most DVD viewers have come to expect as of late. Instead, it’s perfect in its own way. Music such as this should be viewed through different eyes, and luckily Portishead was up to the task. The film is dark, sometimes blurry, and colored with warm browns. The viewer actually sees what the audience is feeling throughout the performance. It is as if Beth and the boys are sitting in on a John Coltrane session from 1962. It’s smoky, it’s jazz… it’s pure trip-hop, and the film is the better for it. The use of this faded visual technique is a gutsy move that proves that vintage doesn’t always mean inferior.
As if this fantastic performance wasn’t enough, the band has also been so generous as to include virtually every other A/V product that they have available. No less than five music videos are here, featuring singles taken from both of their critically acclaimed albums. Also included are three short films; the aptly titled “Road Trip”, “Wondering Star”, and the very Bond-esque “To Kill A Dead Man”. The addition of these extras is a wholly benevolent gesture, given the outstanding quality of the feature. Their inclusion here makes a great disc even more wonderful.
The discovery of this DVD made me a lifelong fan of this band. While their studio albums are great, this live performance is simply outstanding (as is the companion CD). If you are a fan of music, you owe it to yourself to discover this band. If you’re already a fan, prepare to be amazed all over again.
Special Features List
- Bonus Short Films: Road Trip, Wondering Star, To Kill A Dead Man
- Bonus Videos: Numb, Sour Times, All Mine, Over, Only You