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Portugal. The Man At The Wiltern, Friday July 12th 2013, Reviewed

portugal. is the man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday night, I saw Portugal. The Man melt mountains, melt their songs together, melt ‘Sleep Forever’ into ‘Hey Jude’ and I saw them melt everyone’s hearts, mine included. Their show at the Wiltern theater was full of colors, lights, green laser flying above our heads, flyaway-sing-along choruses, George-Harrison-like harmonies, songs going from bombast to bombast, hooks bigger than the large theater itself, and of course love. Without saying much to the public, the band managed to make a real loving connection with their audience, which has grown bigger and bigger over these past years. All this made of their Friday show at the Wiltern, a truly fantastic and memorable one, with not a second wasted, not a moment when all senses weren’t stimulated to their fullest.

The music was dense and loud, the band hardly stopped between the songs, often jamming to the next one, at times making the show feel like one unique long song not sounding like anything they have recorded on one of their eight studio albums. I saw them 3 years ago in a much smaller venue, and couldn’t believe how much they have grown, ‘It’s a fucking big place man!’ said one of them toward the end of the show, being very impressed to realize that Portugal. The Man had sold out the 2,300-capacity Wiltern theater. But their show had some real stadium-size ambitions at the image of their music, using a background of mountain silhouettes on which all kinds of colorful lights and images were projected, they managed to create a different landscape (from city-lights to snowy mountains, wild fires, green forests and acid-trip cartoons) matching each one of their soundscapes, making the show as pleasant and surprising for the eyes as it was for the ears. The pictures I took barely give credit to the beauty of the visuals with lights and laser.

They start with a very dynamic version of their new hit ‘Purple Yellow Red and Blue’, and for some reasons played it again before the encore, but if Kayne West and Jay-Z can play 12 times theirs, nobody should complain if there is one sole repeat and nobody did. The set was of course heavy on songs off their Modest-Mouse-produced last album ‘Evil Friends’, mixing them with their biggest sunny hooks from ‘In the Mountain in the Cloud’ and ‘The Satanic Satanist’, and every part of the show seemed to be made of monster instrumental jams from which poppy choruses were escaping in succession. There’s nothing I can do, songs like ‘So American’, ‘Got it All’, ‘People Say’ or ‘The Sun’ have always had the most spectacular effect on me, their Beatles-to-Oasis-borrowed-giant-hooked choruses that you want to scream at the top of your lungs as soon you hear them, have always produced mini fireworks in my head, boosting dopamine like repetitive ecstasy pills, and last night wasn’t different. John Gourley’s falsetto worked marvelously and I realized that these ear-candy/ear-gasm-songs were able to open another layer of sweetness each time, I mean can you go poppier than this?

‘All I/Wanna do is/Live in ecstasy’, Gourley sang in ‘Purple Yellow Red and Blue’, and even though the new songs aren’t as catchy as these older ones, but rather more complex and busy, I could totally relate, as they were carrying us from one surprising light-image effect to the next one, with more bombast, sing-along and even a few crowd surfing! People were enjoying their time with forests of cell phones in the air, handclaps and some occasional weed smoking, while more and more people were joining the band on stage. They already had a lady on vocals and percussion but a violinist and cellist joined the sextet at some point (hard to remember exactly when because there was so much going on), adding beautiful strings to the already heavily instrumented music, at the risk to overwhelm the audience.

‘It’s a special show’ said one of them (it may have been Zach Carothers)  just before the encore, saying they had recorded their last album in Los Angeles and recognizing, front row, some people who had followed the band since its humble beginning just a few years ago, ‘Thank you for the inspiration!’. As I said there were not a lot of words said but a few ‘We fucking Love You’ and ‘Thank you’ projected on the background of the stage were saying everything…

Of course, this is a band who wears its influences on its sleeves, and during the encore they did two medleys of their songs with Beatles’ songs, ‘The Devil/Helter Skelter’ and ‘Sleep Forever/Hey Jude’, and I hardly noticed the transition as if the songs were woven with the same sonic texture. The whole thing ended with ‘Hey Jude’, a song probably heard and played a million times, how could they get away with such easy cheesiness? Because it came from the heart.

Setlist

Purple Yellow Red and Blue
All your Light
Evil Friends
Day Man (‘It’s always sunny in Philadelphia’ classic track)
So American, People Say
Guns and dogs
Power
Atomic man
The Sun
Senseless
Sea of air
Modern Jesus
Got it all (This can’t be Living now)
When the War Ends
Hip Hop Kids
Creep in a t-shirt
Purple Yellow Red and Blue
The Devil/Helter Skelter
Sleep forever/Hey Jude



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