Unlike Massive Attack's sophomore CD, Portishead's second, self-titled, release avoids the usual stumbling blocks of repetition and mediocrity. Tracks like "Half Day Closing" and "Only You" are brilliant extensions of the group's repertoire. The two songs explore the band's central theme of the oppressive burdens of love, yet storm off in unexpected directions guided by Gibbons' unbridled voice and Barrow's precise samples. The total experience is akin to immersing oneself in a bitter love saga; self-reliance is reawakened and self-loathing renewed.
Portishead live are no different. The white lights and waves of blunted beats swirling around Gibbons' spectral presence take the listener on a ride through love and self-discovery. Considering Portishead toured only once for their first album, missing this show means not only bypassing one of the highlights of 1997 but enduring a long, arduous wait for their return.
-- Robert Arriaga
Portishead play Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 8 p.m. at the Warfield, 982 Market (at Sixth Street). Tickets are $22.50-25; call 775-7722.