Gig preview: Portishead in Auckland

By Chris Schulz

After 15 years of producing timeless trip-hop and spooky electronica, you'd think it would take a lot to turn Portishead into gibbering fanboys.

But that's what happened to Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley - who along with Beth Gibbons make up the Bristol trio - when they met their heroes Public Enemy at the recent All Tomorrow's Parties festival in New Jersey.

Speaking to nzherald.co.nz in Auckland ahead of tonight's Vector Arena show, Barrow and Utley said they had no idea Chuck D was going to jump up on stage with them to rap over one of their songs.

"He came up with us. I thought he never would," said Utley. "I remember saying to Mike our stage manager, 'If he's coming up give us the thumbs up'. I didn't have to, he was on the side of the stage with his lyric sheet. I thought, 'he's going to do it'."

"He did Black Steel over Machine Gun. It was like, 'Oooohhh," said Barrow.

Fans may not know it but Portishead, known for their moody masterpieces thanks to Gibbons' haunted vocals, began by bonding over hip-hop.

"That's the reason Geoff and I started talking to each other, because I'd just heard It Takes a Nation of Millions, I didn't understand it. But i was completely obsessed with it. It changed my life completely. Then I met Geoff and talked to him about it."

Unlike other 90s musical trends, Portishead's style - nailed on 1994's Dummy and made even darker on 1997's Portishead and 2008's comeback album Third - hasn't dated.

Utley said that was because Portishead never tried to copy other styles or bands.

"We haven't jumped on to try and do dubstep, or witch house, or drum n bass. We've always followed our true path of, 'That's cool, let's investigate that world, see where we go with that'.

"It's always been about the kind of music we've wanted to make, and what we're listening to and the cool things we introduce each other too.

"It's not based on modern music, it's based on very old music most of the time."

Tonight's show is the band's first time in New Zealand since 1998, and they promised to play songs from all three of their albums.

They also said a fourth Portishead album was in the pipeline, but could give no timeline for its release.

Watch Portishead perform with Chuck D:

What: Portishead with The Adults
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland
When: Tonight

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