LIVE REVIEW: Portico Quartet ‘Isla’ Album Launch (London)

Portico Quartet 1 by Toby Summerskill
Picture by Toby Summerskill

KOKO of Camden was full to capacity last night with Portico Quartet appreciators, for the official launch gig for their new album Isla released on 19 October. According to their good mate and fellow artist Jamie Woon, who I bumped into at the show, there were ticket touts hanging around outside the venue. As he quite rightly observed, the presence of such is surely a sign that the band has reached a new level of popularity.

Making a very welcome return to the UK live scene, the four-piece have just embarked on a rigorous nationwide tour to accompany the release of Isla. After their support act for the launch night, Sweet Billy Pilgrim had warmed the stage with some pleasant, inoffensive melodic rock, the Quartet threw themselves into their set with an energy that is characteristic of the live Portico experience.

Isla album cover
Album cover for Isla as designed by band member Duncan Bellamy (percussionist)

They have evolved as a live act since I last saw them play nearly two years ago on the release of their acclaimed debut Knee Deep In The North Sea. Most notably there’s the introduction of a loop machine, very much in step with the slightly more electronic feel of Isla.

Being an album launch the group chose to focus on their new material indulging us with some of their older tunes for good measure. Whether playing songs past or present, Portico Quartet thoroughly engage their audience from the first note. Personal highlights from last night’s show include the live re-workings of ‘The Visitor’, ‘Paper Scissors Stone’ and the future classic ‘Life Mask’- three of Isla’s strongest tracks and Milo Fitzpatrick’s bad-ass Double Bass solo on crowd-favourite ‘Steps In the Wrong Direction’.

Portico Quartet are one of the most consistent live acts around now. Absolutely no dead weight aboard this ship- each band member’s dazzling musicality coalesces to create something greater than the sum of all its parts. Hearing them live is always an enhanced listening experience. Make it a point to catch the Quartet on tour and you’ll be reminded of why music remains one of life’s best natural highs.

For more information and tour dates visit Portico Quartet on Myspace

Review by Tolita

RELATED:  Read our interview with Portico Quartet