Portishead and the Verve set for Coachella fest

Published by Reuters


Out in the California desert, the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival is fast becoming an oasis for high-profile reunions.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, the Pixies, Rage Against the Machine, Gang of Four and Bauhaus are just a handful of the acts whose return to the stage has taken place at the Indio, Calif.-based event in recent years.

The trend will continue this year when two of Britain’s most important ’90s alternative bands — the Verve and Portishead — make their respective U.S. returns after nearly a decade.

“The fans like them,” said Paul Tollett, principal of Los Angeles-based Goldenvoice, which organizes Coachella. “But also they attract other bands to the bill and give a serious feel to the show.” This year’s lineup also boasts Roger Waters, Kraftwerk, My Morning Jacket, the Raconteurs, the Breeders and Love and Rockets.

“The festival’s strength is that we know (which) bands to pick,” Tollett added. “(But) we don’t want every band that starts to play again. They need to be in top form for the show.”

With that in mind, the reunited My Bloody Valentine turned down an offer to play its first show in 10-plus years at this year’s festival, telling Tollett the band needed more time to hone its live show.


But the Verve and Portishead should be nearing peak shape for Coachella, which will serve as a launch pad for anticipated new album releases. Portishead’s third studio album, appropriately titled “Third,” will land April 28 internationally via Island and the following day in the United States via Mercury. It will be the trip-hop pioneers’ first set since a 1997 self-titled album.

“They’ve been asking us for quite a few years,” Portishead’s Adrian Utley said of Coachella. “It seems like a good place to play, being out in the desert, and it was started by what seems to be some pretty cool people.”

Utley described the band’s new album as “the same mindset we’ve always had, only further down the road.”

New tracks received their airing in December 2007 at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Minehead, England, which the band curated. More U.K. and European audiences will get a taste during a spring tour.

The status of the Verve’s as-yet-untitled fourth EMI album, tentatively due in June, is less clear. In January, manager Jazz Summers, CEO of Big Life, was one of several artist managers to voice concerns over the new EMI regime’s ability to handle big releases. The band is unsigned in the States.

The group split up in 1999 at the height of its commercial power before reuniting last summer. The first new music from the Richard Ashcroft-led act, a 14-minute jam dubbed “The Thaw Session,” was released as a free download in October.

Parlophone managing director Miles Leonard said the Verve is “currently writing only,” and neither he nor Summers would comment on whether the situation with EMI had been resolved.

The band’s last album was 1997’s “Urban Hymns.” Tickets for a six-date U.K. tour in November 2007 reportedly sold out in less than 20 minutes, with a string of arena dates added soon after. A headline slot at Scotland’s biggest festival, T in the Park, has been confirmed, while the coveted Sunday night slot on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2008 is also understood to be the Verve’s.

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