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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, May 21

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« Review: Minus the Bear @ the Metro Review: Dum Dum Girls @ Empty Bottle, 10/14 »

Concert Fri Oct 14 2011

Review: Portishead @ Aragon Ballroom, 10/12


Portishead photos courtesy of Portishead

There are some things in life that are worth the wait. Yes, I wish I would have seen Portishead before now and yes I wish they put out albums more frequently, but if that was the case, would I love and respect their work as much as I do? Clearly their craft is a labor of love, each album carefully worked on until they see perfection in their vision, and the same can be said for their live show. Production wise it was near perfect, from the lighting to the quality of the sound (amazing since the Aragon is usually plagued with horrible acoustics) to the spot on perfection of each musician's part all set to a background of a perfect mix of visuals.

From the first galloping drum beats and strained instrumentals of "Silence," the band set a dichotomy for the night of breathy sensual sound pushing and pulling against the unnerving sense of stress and vulnerability in their music. Everything about the night was dense and rich. This mood was perfectly encapsulated when they performed a stripped down version of "Wandering Star" that lead into the precise staccato of "Machine Gun." With "Wandering Star," Beth Gibbons voice bloomed over the silently stunned audience, total control over each note. As Geoff Barrow methodically plunked out the stark bass line, the entire room was entranced by this most simple arrangement. Before the room could digest it all, the band launched into the sonically assaulting "Machine Gun," a sense of urgent pressure rose with every note, as a static visual of a slow moving camera pans down a desolate hallway, moving closer with each beat towards a locked door. The whole performance of this track was a perfect blend of intensity and paranoia, a backdrop for a dystopian world. This isn't just a band playing a song, it is an art collective at it's finest, blending various mediums to create that "a-ha" moment for the audience.


Portishead photos courtesy of Portishead

Two crowd favorite followed, first the stark into sensual "Over" followed by the slow burn sexual charged "Glory Box." Gibbons clung to the microphone as she coo'd "I just want to be a woman" and every girl I saw around me was slowly moving their hips back and forth, knowing exactly what she meant. The sexual tension of this song is palatable, each hiccuped breathy lyric tumbles out like it's on the verge of a full force climax. By the time the song drops into the heavy bass beat, like the floor falling out from underneath you, it's one hell of a ride.

The band knows when to turn up the pace as they dove right in to the new wave friendly single "Chase the Tear," and kept the abrasive electronic vibe going with "Cowboys," one of the few tracks they played off their self titled album. The set mainly showcased Third, an album US audiences have never seen on tour, and classic favorites from Dummy. As the set ended with "Thread," Gibbons finally spoke, thanking the crowd and doing an adorably awkward bow.

After much stomping, the band returned and played "Roads" and closed the night with a rowdy version of "We Carry On" which found Gibbons leaping over to the soundboard and climbing down to run along the photo pit high fiving and shaking hands with the front row. The band spends so much of their set in such an intense concentration on their craft, it's nice to see them relax towards the end and really enjoy their rapt fan base. I hope it's not another decade before I can see Portishead again live, but at least I know for sure that the wait was indeed definitely worth it.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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