Portugal. The Man often abbreviated PTM, hardly needs an introduction after the success of their Grammy award-winning “Feel It Still,” off of their 2017 record Woodstock. Their newfound fame has upset longtime fans, and the band acknowledges this by selling t-shirts that say “I liked Portugal. The Man before they sold out.” You could feel this dichotomy in the crowd, made up of fans who were there for the pop sounds of “Feel It Still” and those who had been through every of iteration of the band. I had seen PTM perform twice while touring their last album, 2013’s Evil Friends, and was excited to see how they’d change their set to appease their new fans.
The support act was Twin Peaks, a 5-piece, Chicago-based rock band, which set the tone of the night as a rock, not pop, concert. They were made up of a drummer, bassist, 2 guitarists, and a guy who alternated between the keyboard and guitar.
The show started off with one of the guitarists taking a sip of his beer, which turned into a chug upon the crowd’s chanting of “Chug! Chug! Chug!” Their sound was very much influenced by the British invasion bands of the 60s and the 90s post-punk revival. Although I love that sound, I thought they were just a decent band until their last song, where their skill as guitarists became abundantly clear.
I was ready for the rock concert that I knew Portugal. The Man could put on, but unsure of what to expect. With the notes of the first song (the bell chimes of Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”), I knew I was in for a great show. They continued with another cover, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” before playing their own songs. This is an approach that is uniquely Portugal. The Man, who loves playing a good cover to acknowledge their influences. Over the years, I’ve also seen covers of T. Rex’s “Children of the Revolution” and The Beatles’ “I Want You.”
Portugal. The Man has a completely unique form of performing, and it was prefaced at the beginning of the show with a projection that explained their ineptitude with stage banter. At various points throughout the show, they’d “check-in” using this text. I thought it was amazing that a band who is notoriously shy is still able to perform without having to leave their comfort zone. It also led to an evening focused solely on the music.
They mostly played songs from their two most recent records with a couple of older songs sprinkled in. Of course, “Feel It Still” was a highlight with the whole crowd participating and getting their groove on, and I admire their decision to play it in the middle of the set, which seemed to be a tip of the hat to their older fans. My personal highlights lie with my favorite songs from Evil Friends. I absolutely loved “Modern Jesus” and “Hip Hop Kids,” both of which bring back memories of driving around in my first car jamming out to my favorite band. “Noise Pollution” was the highlight of the songs from Woodstock. Although they perform it very differently live.
They finished their set with a medley of “Sleep Forever,” “Smile,” and a cover of “Hey Jude,” during which they flashed a message of, “That’s right kids. No computers up here. Just live instruments.” A person next to me remarked that it was impossible, but I think they were telling the truth. Here’s how I think they got around the parts that were pre-recorded. They pressed it onto a vinyl record. I have no proof of this, but as the show started the classic sound of the MTELUS filler music changed to something that sounded almost live. I think John Gourley spun records to start and finish their set, as well as to play some of the pre-recorded sounds.
The show had a lot of energy, and despite their saying nothing but the occasional “thank you,” the band had an amazing stage presence. The jams within and between songs were iconic, and their distinct way of playing live was refreshing. Although some of the graphics projected were odd (very PTM), most of them, as well as the lights, were on point. They didn’t distract from the music, but they weren’t boring.
It was a great show, and I’m excited to see them for the fourth time this summer. My only complaint: I still haven’t seen them play my favorite song (the one that introduced me to them), “People Say” from their 2008 record, which they played in Brooklyn the night before. My only question to them is what’s a girl got to do to hear her favorite song live?
Review – Rhodes Ford
Photos – Thomas Bock