Portishead + Mogwai – Brief and Majestic
Nimes, a very beautiful city in the south of France is inhabited by the Occitan’s, who are described as “un peuple fort sur l’homme, généreux dans l’effort, dur sur le taureau” (pfft – I’m not going to translate this, as I can’t be bothered, and it would get lost in the translation… besides, that’s what Google translate is for) and who share a love for wine barrels.
We are not unhappy about leaving Paris this week, the rain doesn’t help for an outdoor festival, and thankfully, it is polite enough to remain on the platform as we leave Gare de Lyon (station). We are welcomed upon our arrival with beautiful sunshine and great conditions.
Who would have known, that behind a large pile of stones which date back 2000 years or more, that we would come across one of the most sumptuous and magical festivals of the summer – within the ‘Arena’. This year, once again, the area hosted a large number of prestigious names: Santana, Ben Harper, Sting, Robert Plant, Supertramp, The Offspring and many others. What brings us here tonight is by no means disappointing either. The first half of the Mogwai concert, followed by Portishead – I can think of worse ways to spend my time! We find ourselves, for once, not in the pit – but in the stands. (A dark tale of tickets purchased too quickly). However, it turns out to be a blessing in disguise, and allowed us to experience a really special evening.
Led by their guitars, Mogwai begin to belt out some songs on stage from their new album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. The setting sun on my left, coupled with the distorted guitars of this Scottish group, very quickly gets us in the mood. Mogwai in the sunlight is not exactly the best way to experience their music, (a good, old dark room would have been better) – but still, it’s always a pleasure to see Stuart Brathwaite grind his guitar. Their sound, powerful and deep, is the best way to ensure that we have our heads in the clouds before the arrival of the main course.
It’s been quite a while since Portishead played in France – 2008, in fact, at the Zenith in Paris for their “Third” album. It is therefore in the context of high expectations that the concert begins.
The Arena fits perfectly with the sounds and emotions of Portishead. As Beth Gibbons sings out the first words of the song “Silence”, a mysterious and powerful atmosphere was apparent. The bands performance was really quite magic. When they play live, every guitar and vocal part takes on its full dimension. Their greatest hits, such as “Mysterons”, “Sour Times” or “Glory Box” are followed by a torrent of applause. “Magic Doors”, from the Third album and “Roads” from Dummy overwhelm the public. “Wandering Star”, played in a unique acoustic version (voice and bass only), was met with great success also. Visual effects were very discrete, but this didn’t affect the mood of the crowd, and helped moreso to create the kind of trance they were trying to envelop us in.
The concert passes by in a flash as the songs follow on, one after the other, as fast as possible. As usual, Beth Gibbons, shy and unassuming in her success, turns her back to the public after each vocal performance. We barely have the time to realise what were were experiencing, after several long years of waiting, that the concert has already finished. In the cold wind of the Arena we hear a thunderous applause…
For a brief moment, much like an alien or a UFO, Portishead landed in the Arena; only to leave again, back to their galaxy…
Thanks to M. Pasta and M. Kitty for the” collaborative” report!
SETLIST: Silence – Hunter – Mysterons – The Rip – Magic Doors – Sour Times – Wandering Star – Machine Gun- Over – Glory Box – Nylon – Smile – Cowboys – Threads. Encore: Roads – We Carry On