Portugal. The Man
House of Blues Anaheim
Portugal. The Man has been releasing records since 2006, and even though the Portland-from-way-of-Alaska-based outfit's popularity just recently skyrocketed, it has eight studio albums under its belt as well as years of practice playing live. Last night, the experimental folk rockers showcased both feats.
Though the six-piece played a nearly two-hour long set, it only scratched the surface of its discography, choosing songs from its four most recent albums and relying heavily on content from the recently released (and highly acclaimed) Evil Friends – an album that was produced by the skillful hands of Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse. Oddly enough, the band opted to play the album's hit single, “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” right off the bat, and also end the set with an alternate version of the same song (though it was a reprise the crowd was either too drunk to care or legitimately stoked on it because everyone clapped and cheered like they hadn't heard it an hour earlier).
But this is the magic Portugal. The Man possesses. To see this band live is nothing like listening to it recorded. The members meticulously plan jam sessions that are meant to look spontaneous, and as a way to help with the monotony of tour set lists, they switch it up from night to night, either varying the order or song choice all together but still organizing it in a way that seems like one long jam session.
However, one drawback to seeing Portugal. The Man live is the lack of audience interaction. Vocalist John Gourley will be the first to admit he used to suffer from cringe-worthy shyness, and though he's grown up to be the lead singer of a band, that side of him still comes across onstage. He can croon in a dreamy falsetto and shred on his Gretsch White Falcon, but the most he said in between songs was “Thank you,” and that was even a rarity. But even without quirky banter, Gourley and the rest of the band showed their carefree sides by adding a cover of “Dayman” as a set staple. For those of you second-guessing yourselves, don't; it is indeed the same “Dayman” that Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton made famous in It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Though that cover may have slipped past the majority of the crowd, the band's cover of The Beatles' “Helter Skelter” certainly did not, and when they ended their set with “Sleep Forever,” adding “Plastic Soldiers” and “Hey Jude” to the outro, it was damn near impossible not to sing along.
Critical Bias: The band mixes up song arrangements and jams between songs, so seeing them live is nothing like listening to a record.
The Crowd: A mix of frat boys and girls who like to go to music festivals.
Overheard In The Crowd: “Oh my god, was I just giving you a lap dance? I'm sorry!”
Random Notebook Dump: I've been a fan of Portugal. The Man since the beginning and have seen them too many times to count, but it's clear they're on another level now, and it's truly impressive (though I would have liked to hear a few older songs).