The highest sadness and fragility

The highest sadness and fragility

Beth Gibbons is known, above all, as the singer of the legendary band Portishead, an emblematic group of trip-hop that survived the sunset of this sound thanks to its own self-claiming and, perhaps, above all, thanks to its unprecedentedly resonant, almost always deeply haunting, versatile voice in reality.


But on Thursday night, he came not to sing for us the still-ubiquitous “Glory Box”, but to present the repertoire of his signed debut album entirely on his own: “A Life Beyond”, a reflection on the themes of rupture, menopause and mortality in the key of chamber pop. This Will Not Be a Party century, and it was easy to wonder if an outdoor theater near midnight was the ideal setting.

The background noise, the strange rhythms, ended up giving way to the relentless tenderness, not without danger and strangeness, of Gibbons and a rich repertoire that included guitars, stringed instruments, woodwinds and brass. She herself called the gathering from her symbolic position on stage: eyes closed, shoulders hunched, hands tightly gripping the microphone. A deeply disturbing beginning with “Tell Me Who Are You Today”, a growing rhythmic subplot with “Burden of Life” and a whiff of instant classic with “Float in a Moment” or, as a final colophon, “Extend Your Hand”, a song that feels like a crossroads of different eras of Portishead Designs.

In addition to reprising her record with Rustin Man (via Mysteries and Tom The Model), Gibbons has been generous to her oldest fans and somewhat surprisingly brought back Portishead’s anthem “The Roads” here without the thundering beats, but with the vocal expressiveness that gave decades of music not only experience but Vitality. The noise and time stopped for a few sublime minutes.

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Beth Gibbons

Cobra Scenario (5/30/2024)

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