Portugal. The Man at House of Blues, 6/28/13
Photos by Jim Bricker.
Ever since getting word of the opportunity of interviewing Portugal. The Man, my mind has been on nearly nothing but them. I've basically been living in Portugal for the past two weeks. Finally, with the show in the bag, I can move on to other countries, such as my own pillow and blanket. I've had the album on repeat, and have been Google-ing everything about the P.TM for what seems like forever.
Finally, they were on a stage in front of me, and I had no problem jamming the hell out of them.
Arriving at what I thought was super early, opening act Guards were already a few songs into their set. The crowd was much bigger than I had expected for a quarter past eight, filling out the main floor to the soundboard at the back. The band sounded great, and had an amazing amount of energy, but unfortunately the opener's sound guy apparently forgot to put a q-tip to his ears before coming to work. It was super muddy and distorted, and seemed to be several decibels louder on the right side than the left.
Guards are the type of band that need to have a clean sound, but unfortunately that wasn't the case throughout their performance. Still, their set came across as very mature for such a young band, with touches of '60s psychedelia shining through the standard indie fare.
Thankfully, as soon as the headliners made their way to stage, they fixed any sound problem there might've been.
After about 45 minutes of set change, Portugal. The Man slinked onto stage and quickly jumped into "Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue," the standout single from their new record, Evil Friends. After a run through of a few older tracks, and a brief take on "Day Man" from Always Sunny In Philadelphia, the title track to their new record continued the energetic set that had taken place from the get-go. The mostly white, not-as-young-of-a-crowd as I expected seemed to enjoy the set, but I couldn't really tell because the music was loud enough to drown out any potential conversation that might've been taking place.
Last time Portugal. The Man came to town, the youngins had taken over Fitzgerald's, mostly getting kicked out for underage drinking and general stupidity before the band even hit the stage. This show was different. It's like the kiddos decided to give us older, music loving folk a break for the night. The crowd was respectful to the band, and seemed to actually be enjoying what their hard earned dollars afforded them that particular evening. I even saw people singing along. What a revelation.
The band fed off the energy of the crowd, and sweated out a spectacular nearly two hour set of new and old material. Evil Friends was surely the focus of the set, which seemed to be alright with the vast majority of the fans. A band that consistently puts out top-notch material has the ability to either focus on their latest effort, or feed their fans a greatest hits set. Over the years, I've seen a fair helping of the both, but this night was dedicated to the new. Not saying they didn't play older material - they did - but the shows highlights came from their more practiced newer album stuff.
The performance was just really spot on. Sometimes you fall into a show that is flawless from front to back - this was one of those. Even with the occasional cover, like Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" or The Beatles' "Hey Jude," which could easily come off as cheesy, P.TM never faltered from what they do best, and that's rock the fuck out. Frontman John Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers, the two founding members of the group, were both really entertaining to watch because of their unbridled enthusiasm from start to finish.
Even if you weren't exactly feeling a song, all you had to do was take a look at either of them and you'd instantly be excited again. That's not the easiest thing to do, but with years of practicing their craft on the road, both guys seem to know exactly what they're doing on the stage. You show off good vibes, and they'll eventually come back to you. That comes across loud and clear with this band.
I've had a great time digesting everything there is to know about Portugal. The Man over the past few weeks, and this show served as the final exam for me. While I've been writing about music for many years now, this whole serious journalistic approach to live music is actually quite new to me. I almost wore myself out on the band before ever stepping foot into House of Blues last night.
Thankfully, though, they are such a great live band that everything was thrown out of the window as soon as they started into their opening notes. That's a sign of a great band, when you feel as if you can't take anymore until it's in your face and you just can't get enough. This was one of those bands that you wanted the whole serving rather than just a slice.
Personal Bias: Two weeks is a lot of time to spend with anybody or thing. Think if your uncle crashed on your couch for two weeks. Shit would get stale.
The Crowd: Pretty chill for a near capacity crowd
Overheard in the Crowd: After the line, "Where, where are we now?" during their song "The Sun," some proud frat boy shouted "Texas!"
Random Notebook Dump: This show was definitely way more packed than Monday's J Cole show despite not being a sell-out. Does that mean they capped ticket sales for that show, but not this show? What is capacity, anyway? Were there more people on the balcony? I love this song!
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