There is an almost tangible buzz of anticipation in the Brudenell Social Club as Portico Quartet arrive onstage. With three albums now under their belts and a career which has seen them go from busking on London’s Southbank to playing at this year’s Dimensions Festival, the band have taken their distinctive brand of hypnotic electronica global, garnering huge amounts of praise along the way.
From the outset, the band gently builds upon a web of sound woven by the double bass and sample pad, gradually incorporating the other elements of their music. As the enchanting melody starts to wash over us, it transforms into the instantly recognisable riff of ‘Ruins’, which earns raucous applause from the audience and the swaying of bodies en masse. The interplay between bass and saxophonist sets a late night vibe which continues for much of the show, evoking memories of post-club chill sessions. Clearly we are in for something special tonight.
It is when the band delve into their Mercury Music Prize nominated debut, ‘Knee Deep In the North Sea’ during the middle of their performance, that we are introduced to the Hang – an instrument which forms a huge part of the sonic identity of the band. ‘The Kon Tiki Expedition’ is built around a cyclical pattern of the Hang, adding a Caribbean flavour to proceedings and really gives us a taste of the organic element of the music which comes across so prominently in their live shows. The beauty of it all is the way in which the tracks effortlessly segue into each other, creating coherence throughout, which keeps the crowd captivated and – by the end – completely in awe of what was a flawless performance.
It’s hard to believe that this time last year London Grammar hadn’t released a single note of music. Now one of the most successful bands of 2013, the band find themselves playing to packed and intimate venues while selling out those five times the size. The Cockpit is one of these former venues, booked for a gig before the band were catapulted to their current stature and therefore buzzing, rammed and alive with anticipation before the Londoners take to the stage.
Silencing the crowd with a drawn out interlude to ‘Hey Now’, front woman Hannah Reid fills the room with a vocal that is at once spine tingling and consistently stunning. Her tone and range are breathtaking, but Reid’s presence is far from intimidating as she interacts with the crowd throughout the evening.
The threesome meander through a set of album favourites which, impressively, stand up live with even more backbone than on record; ‘Wasting My Young Years’ is given the treatment of a more upbeat tempo, whilst the vibrating bass of ‘Strong’ serves to bring the song to every nerve ending in our quaking bodies. Major flits between the drums and keys, building up the production of tracks like ‘Nightcall’ with haunting effect and ‘Flickers’ becomes an unlikely and surprising highlight thanks to such treatment.
Audience reaction to the young trio is overwhelming when silence cascades around Reid to signify the end of a song, yet a crying shame for the evening is that they don’t seem to know how to shut up. A plague on live music, this kind of chatter has the effect of killing an atmosphere but London Grammar seemed to take it in their stride. Thankfully silence falls when it is needed and the trio see out the evening with their take on Chris Isaac’s ‘Wicked Game’. Enchantingly executed, it proves the trio are a sum of their parts and well worth every bit of attention they have received thus far.