Portugal. The Man
“We've been out for a long time now…fuck, man, I'm tired.”
Bassist Zach Carothers waited until halfway through Portugal. The Man's set at the Observatory on Sunday night to address the crowd, which was probably for the best – you don't want to start a show by giving a sold-out room a reason to doubt.
Fortunately, by the time Carothers spoke up, the band had long since won everyone over. After taking the stage to the Righteous Brothers' “Unchained Melody” (or as a girl nearby said, “Isn't this the song from Ghost?”) PTM went on to crush the first half of their set. The Observatory show was the last stop on the band's tour, Carothers said, and they were headed home to rest and make new music.
PTM opened with “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” which I think is a reference to the across-the-hall rivalry of the Lakers and the Clippers. (Who would have thought a Portland-based band would be so into L.A. basketball? Get well soon, Kobe!)
Actually, the recent radio success of “Purple” capitalizes on a formula Portugal has been refining for nearly 10 years – breezy pop hooks led by John Gourley's falsetto and backed with a heavy rock stomp. The band slathered the song's goodwill all over the night, reprising “Purple” to close their set after a creepy-cool version of Pink Floyd's “Another Brick in the Wall (Pt.2)” that was heavy on Carother's bass and Kyle O'Quin's keyboards.
Other tracks from Evil Friends, the band's June release, were spread throughout the set, including “Modern Jesus,” “Creep In A T-Shirt” and “Hip-Hop Kids,” which Gourley said the band liked because “we get to swear a lot.” PTM's visual effects rig was a show in itself, based around a white triangular backdrop that showed a never-ending mélange of static, champagne bubbles, glaciers, Egyptian pyramids in time-lapse, dripping, colorful goo and other projections friendly to hallucinogenics.
The band milked the crowd's knowledge of classic-rock FM radio, veering into several Beatles songs (more on that later) and an unlikely cover song choice early in the set – "The Nightman,” a running joke from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. PTM has included the song on previous tour stops, so enough of the crowd was in on the joke to sing-a-long, but the band played the song straight-faced and without explanation, and the bit passed through most of the room without notice.
After the "Purple” coda, Portugal encored with an additional guitarist, introduced as drummer "Kane [Ritchotte]'s dad,” and launched into four more songs, including a loose version of the Beatles' “Helter Skelter.” After an extended jam, which included a “Third Stone From the Sun”- style blast of guitar face-melting, PTM closed with “Sleep Forever,” the last track from the 2011 album In The Mountain In The Cloud. The song morphed into another sing-a-long, this time “Hey Jude,” though the moment played like a remnant carried over from the band's previous tour – the crowd started singing before the band did, and the latter quickly receded back into an instrumental, psychedelic bliss.
After retreating into their instruments, the band simply retreated, leaving the crowd to face a cold October night and whatever would face them on the Monday morning fast approaching. Hopefully, everyone got a little rest.
The Crowd: Packed in and unafraid to sing along. We stood next to a grade-school-aged kid on one side that watched most of the show through his cell phone screen, and two girls that were fall-down drunk on the other.
Notebook Dump: The overhead music between Portugal and opener Superhumanoids was heavy on Lou Reed and Velvet Underground tracks. R.I.P.