By the end of the '90s, artists realized that CD and CD-R bootlegs of live performances were in high demand, which meant that they could profit by officially releasing certain "special" live performances. Portishead's one-night stand at New York City's Roseland Ballroom, released as PNYC, certainly qualifies as one of those "special" occasions. Performing with a 35-piece orchestra, Portishead runs through selections from its two albums, favoring its second slightly. On the surface, it doesn't seem like the orchestra would add much to the performances, especially since the arrangements remain similar, but its presence makes the music tense, dramatic, and breathtaking. This is especially true of the material from Portishead. On album, several of these songs sounded a little flat, but here they soar right alongside such staples as "Mysterons," "Sour Times," and "Glory Box." That alone doesn't necessarily make PNYC revelatory -- instead, it deepens a listener's understanding of the artist, much like the Tindersticks' The Bloomsbury Theatre. Which means, of course, that PNYC is much more compelling and essential than the average live album.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine