Live Review:
Portico Quartet

The instrumental four piece played 24 Kitchen Street, Liverpool, 11 Oct

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Portico Quartet made a thunderous return in 2017 with the acclaimed album Art in the Age of Automation and embarked on a sold-out European tour. After announcing a limited number of dates in October, Liverpool warmly welcomed the instrumental jazz four-piece to the city.

A last-minute venue change meant the performance moved from the Wind Factory to 24 Kitchen Street, an intimate venue on the outskirts of the city centre. If you manage to find the entrance you’ll find a pretty rudimental set-up, brick walls and chipboard bathrooms, but the drinks aren’t pricey and there’s a good selection of beers. Perching on a step on the unsealed concrete dancefloor among the other attendees – mostly fashionable students in flannel shirts – a chilled-out atmosphere hung in the air.

The evening opened with a solo sax support act that pushed the limits of sound by conducting a lengthy free jazz journey through timbre. Although the performance was artistic, the act would have been better placed at a more experimental occasion, with an audience more inclined to see a 20-minute succession of investigational playing. A second support act led the audience down a more traditional jazz route, playing a number of original saxophone lead tracks – though neither of the warm-up acts quite had the same musical presence held by the main attraction.

As the headlining act arrived onstage the night started to simmer and not metaphorically. The heat was intense in the compact room, none of the plentiful fans operational. On top of this the once empty dancefloor was now stuffed with people and views of the band were limited, I managed to catch a few glimpses of the drummer, who dripped with perspiration.

But from Keir Vine’s delicate echoing hang drum rhythms to heavy synth and drum-infused bursts launched into existence by Duncan Bellamy, the Mercury Prize-nominated Portico Quartet showed their artistry and captivated their audience from start to finish. A spectacular performance from Jack Wyllie elevated their sound throughout the night with the distinctive reverb-laden saxophone melodies that are scattered throughout their discography.

Portico Quartet possess a rare trait – creating shimmering synths born of ambient dreams that melt into vibrant saxophone solos covering an array of world music scales, while still maintaining a beautiful and often catchy sound that gets your head nodding. You think this band sound powerful on their records? Wait until you see them on stage.

Despite the heat and lack of actually seeing the band it was a privilege to hear Portico Quartet creating waves of music before they head into the studio to work on their new album.

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