Most live albums pretty much lose the feel of the original studio albums -- sometimes they sound tinny and distant. No such sound here. "Live: Roseland NYC" has not only an orchestra, but the jazzy trip-hop of Portishead's two albums, and the beautiful voice of Beth Gibbons. No wonder it was so good.
Portishead hit the big time with their sophomore album "Dummy," an exquisite blend of smoky jazz and subtle trip-hop. Which, admittedly, sounds like the wrong kind of music to play live, but it works wonderfully here. Portishead includes an almost equal mix of songs from their two albums -- six from "Portishead," five from "Dummy."
And surprisingly, the songs sound like simple redos of the mysterious, melancholy songs from Portishead's too-short career, not stage banter and stripped-down versions of lush songs. It's more than a little unusual to have a band's third album be a live one, but in this case it seems perfectly acceptable.
Backed by an entire orchestra, horns and some wicked turntables, the band plays remarkable versions of their songs. "All Mine" is even more beautiful and haunting than in the album, and "Sour Times" is even more breathtaking than it was originally. Most of the others are faithful renditions, given a powerful new twist with the strings and horns -- only a couple feel less cohesive in a live setting.
Frontwoman Beth Gibbons is known as having a lovely pop voice, and she is in excellent form here. A lot of singers are exposed in live performances as having less-than-stellar vocals, but Gibbons' performance demonstrates what a beautiful voice she has.
"Live: Roseland NYC" is a demonstration of what a good live album should be, showcasing one of trip-hop's best bands. Definitely worth checking out, both as as an accompaniment to Portishead's studio albums, and as a good listen itself.