LIVE REVIEW: Portico Quartet, ICA (London) 03.12.10

As I stood, panting in a dozen layers and making small thank-you gestures to the ceiling that I had made it in time; I allowed myself a very quiet, very modest excitement.

I was going to see Portico Quartet.

Alone, in a room of crowded and eclectic strangers all wrapped in winter jackets and the same, shared childish anticipation, we wait. We wait like school children at assembly for the talented oh-so-cool-kids to stroll up and select their instruments to perform.

When they do, it is hard to tell that it’s really them. They amble on stage so undersized and impervious to my (and the crowded mass of fellow grown-up school kids) interest that I feel like I have been blanked in the corridors by a much older, much trendier student. Their unpretentious character leads to a somewhat unaffected audience and I am surprised to learn that the ten-year old in me (maybe nine and a half) who is waiting in assembly, wants to shush people.

Whatever concerns I had that I would be forced into reprimanding the group of thirty-something city workers behind me (really, they should know better…) quickly evaporated as the Quartets took to their instruments and we all submerge.

The stage was decked out with a few randomly placed balloons that swayed like phosphor jellyfish in the dim light, combined with the haunting whale-song of Jack Wyllie on saxophone and the “hang” drums that dangled like UFO’s , gave tracks such as “The Visitor” and “Dawn Patrol” a haunting cinematic feel. For those wanting to boogie, lighter tracks such as “Paper Scissor Stone” provided lively, brisk relief. But I was content to stay entranced, suspended in a fantasy wherein I was a sea gypsy journeying through shadowy waters.

I moved hypnotically through aquariums, abandoned houses and jungles at night.

I stayed rooted to my designated spot on the floor of the ICA building.

Portico Quartet create the kind of music that makes you nostalgic for memories you have not lived, homesick for places undiscovered and feel intimately, exhaustively acquainted with people you have exchanged nothing more than a smile with.

I exit the ICA building feeling warmer, even though I am still bone-cold and multi-layered, and this time I let my excitement be brassy. I over hear some other Quartet fans on their way out. They don’t say much.

“They were really good.”

“I know.”

I feel oddly grateful for this brief exchange, as though they had acknowledged a ghost in the room I thought only I had seen.

And assembly is done.

Thank God snow days don’t cancel gigs…

Reviewer: Dominique Gozdawa


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