• Aled Vernon-Rees

Portico Quartet at Norwich Arts Centre – Review

When St.Swithin’s Church (now home to Norwich Arts Centre) was built in the fifteenth century they probably weren’t thinking about how perfectly suited it is for ambient jazz groups, but that didn’t stop them making the ideal home to Portico Quartet’s gig last Thursday. I’ve seen my fair share of great indie gigs at the venue but there was something so special about hearing acoustic, jazz and classical music in the church setting.

This awe-inspiring feeling was implemented almost immediately with support act Daudi Matsiko. Portico Quartet are known for using a myriad of instruments and sounds; this was completely juxtaposed by Daudi who came on stage by himself clutching an acoustic guitar. The first two songs ‘Falling’ and ‘Annihilation’ (written about the new Netflix TV series) were slow and simple tracks which captured the audience who didn’t make a sound as hushed lyrics were sang into the mic. The pace of his music went on to increase as the short set went forward finishing with my favorite track ‘Take Me Old’; A unique and gorgeous love song which left the audience wanting more.

While watching his set it was clear why he has been chosen as a support act for many modern jazz / electronic groups like GoGo Penguin and Portico Quartet. His confessional vocals over folk guitar makes the audience appreciate the beauty that is found in simplicity. It is this simplicity that the jazz groups built on in their own sets. Watching Daudi was like tasting an ingredient on its own and experiencing its taste in its purest form. Then Portico Quartet were like this elaborate dish made with that ingredient. The audience’s appreciation of the set is heightened by experience that simplicity in its purest form just moments before.

The lights dimmed and smoke released as the Portico Quartet entered the stage. For the majority of the set there were just two dimly lit and smoke filled spotlights on the group as projections circled the room. This left the band looking mystical as their shadows towering over the church. Starting with two of their most popular tracks ‘Ruins’ and ‘Endless’ the band instantly showcased why they are mercury prize nominated. The haunting repetitiveness of the hang (an instrumental definitely worth looking up) and piercing tones of the sax really came through in these tracks. While later on in the set the focus moved more towards the drummer and double bassist. One track in particular I found fascinating as the double bassist was using loops to create this daunting atmosphere.

It was hard not to be taken away by their set. Their combination of the classical jazz with ambient electronic music is truly breath taking and hypnotising. The set came to about one hour fifteen minutes but it felt like no time at all. It’s hard to say how many tracks they played in this set as one glided smoothly into another, looking back on the gig it almost felt like a dream. At gigs I’m used to focusing on other things around me whilst a gig goes on, but for their whole set I was completely lost in their music even though the man next to me spilt a drink on me and podcasting legend Adam Buxton was stood right in front of me. If they ever came to Norwich again I'd be there in a instant, this is not a band you want to miss out on seeing live.

Portico Quartet are releasing a mini-album called Untitled (AITAOA #2) on the 27th of April via Gondwana Records

#NorwichArtsCentre #Jazz #Acoustic #gigreview

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