This exceptional concert recording dramatizes how the musical goals that drive this Bristol, England, quartet eclipse anything as fleeting as trip-hop (that most stupid of Nineties pop coinages). Mostly recorded at New York’s Roseland Ballroom on July 24th, 1997, these songs find the group’s soprano center, Beth Gibbons, applying her featherweight gravity to subjects like love (“Only You”), time (“Humming”) and loss (“Cowboys”). “It’s left us chokin’,” Gibbons observes on “Half Day Closing” as the music writhes and glides behind her. “Storm…in the morning light,” Gibbons observes on the heartbreaking “Roads” (recorded this year in Norway), alone and “frozen.”
Portishead’s studio nuts and bolts disappear on PNYC as the band expands onstage with a brass quintet and a stylishly directed thirty-three-piece orchestra. Everything here attempts, and often ascends to, the noble flow of a symphony, a great guitar jam, an Aretha-led soul song. PNYC may be Frampton Comes Alive! for the high minded and black clad. It’s also more than that.