Today, 4 January, is Beth Gibbons birthday! The singer and lyricist of Portishead just turned 56.
Here she sings “Strangers” from Portishead debut album, Dummy (1994). The concert itself, it was recorded at Roseland Ballroom, New York City, in 1997. Sometimes I think this version of “Strangers” is even better than the one on the album.
While this Roseland NYC Live, probably one of the most beautiful music DVDs ever released in the 90s. Gloomy, ethereal, spacey, atmospheric, sophisticated … Did I miss something? In brief, it works super effectively in representing Portishead as a postmodern-mystique unit.
At 22, Beth Gibbons moved to Bath, then Bristol to pursue her singing career, where she met Geoff Barrow, her future collaborator in Portishead.
With Adrian Utley, Gibbons and Barlow released the first Portishead album Dummy in 1994 and have produced two other studio albums (Portishead and Third), a live album (Roseland NYC Live), and various singles in the years since (“Magic Doors”, “Chase the Tear”, and more).
Gibbons has also collaborated with former Talk Talk bassist Paul Webb (Rustin Man) and released the album Out of Season (2002). While touring in North America, Variety magazine described Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man’s performance as “Billie Holiday fronting Siouxsie and the Banshees”.
Her 2019 album, recorded with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), was released in March. Gibbons had to study the Polish language especially for this performance. Pitchfork scored 8.0 for this album and called it “dark and dangerous”.
I’ve stopped smoking since more than a decade ago. But if Beth asked me to smoke again, I would.
Anyway, happy birthday and happy new year, too, Beth! Stay vulnerable and mystical!
• Read also BARROW x PORTISHEAD.