Before last night it had been two years since I’ve seen the psychedelic rock band Portugal. The Man. That last show was to a nearly soldout show at The Varsity Theater. Last night it was a nearly soldout hazy show in First Avenue’s Mainroom. Certainly a bigger step, but it’s a step that was to be expected from the Portland band. A month after the release of their fifth studio album, American Ghetto, the band was swooped up by major Atlantic. What followed was almost non-stop, relentless touring schedule, including a lot of the summer festival circuit. It’s a progression that seemed destined for the prolific band who have released a solid album or more every year since 2006’s Waiter: You Vultures! And on Thursday, the festival-worn band showed up both with big stage step up and a bigger, more appropriated sound. This was certainly the band I saw at The Varisty, but their new experience came through in the performance.
Having just released their sixth studio album, and first for their new major, In the Mountain In the Cloud, back in July, the set was heavy on the new material. One of the biggest differences between this new Portugal was how commanding frontman John Baldwin Gourley has become. At the last show he spent most of the set facing his bandmates, not the crowd and said maybe a few words during the entire set. Last night he admitted that they don’t really talk between songs because they “get caught up in playing music and forget to take breaks.” He seemed more energetic and involved with the crowd this time around, smiling and always gracious, and again showed how much their recent tours have aided to the band’s comfort and tightness on stage.
They played through the first single off the new album, “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now),” as well as others including “So American,” “All Your Light,” You Carried Us (Share With Me The Sun,” and “Sleep Forever.” The band didn’t mix in many, if any, songs from their earlier releases, opting for their latter releases that all follow the more retro rock sound they have come into. There were many songs played off 2009’s The Satanic Satanist including “Do You,” “Everyone is Golden,” “The Sun” and “People Say.” The band also seamlessly sprinkled the set with classic rock touchstones that build upon the band’s current sound. These included David Bowie’s “The Young Dudes,” The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Though I would argue that three covers is a bit much, they made all the songs work in the context of the set. It was smooth.
Portugal have always been a favorite band of mine because of how effortlessly and consistently they release solid albums almost every year. Just when you think they have hit an arc, a new album is always on the horizon. Prolific has never been a misnomer with this band. They definitely deserve whatever lay in front of them and their appreciation and work ethic shows in their live performances and their output.