June 24 2013
Portugal. The Man rocked The Pabst Theater this past Friday with their special guest Guards, and I’m here to tell you how it all went down if you couldn’t make it.
As the doors opened and patrons were filing in, they had a pretty sick hip-hop playlist bumping out over the sound system. But for some reason, I seemed to be the only one who was getting into it. And we’re talking about grade A stuff here too: Kanye West’s “Clique,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Backstreet Freestyle,” Jay-Z’s “Dirt off Your Shoulder,” my personal anthem to the fifth grade, and of course R. Kelly’s instant classic, “Ignition (Remix).” Maybe that stuff is best reserved for a rap show, but I would have to agree with The Pabst here and say that this material is acceptable for getting any cultured crowd going.
Then Guards came on. And these guys actually killed it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them headline a small tour of their own anytime soon. They have some catchy pop rock songs in their repertoire that are really easy to get into, and they even some really cool “jam band” moments where they were just absolutely letting loose on top of it. At one point the frontman was scraping the neck of his guitar on the large crash cymbal. WHAT!? And from an opener no less... Speaking of the frontman, Richie Follin really knows how to work a crowd and interact with people between songs, which can be pretty odd to see for a new band without much of a following. And towards the end of the set, he was even trying to coordinate what was going to happen with the lights as they went through the song. The guy has no fear. As for the other members, Loren Humphrey can totally pound those skins and Kaylie Church brings a very agreeable Morticia Addams aesthetic to the table. Guards is definitely primed to make it big.
After a lengthy reggae interpreted Beatles intermission, Portugal took the stage to “Unchained Melody.” My mind was blown. Who was the genius to think of this and why did it take so long for someone to come up with the idea? Having the Righteous Brothers belt out that final harmony as you make yourself known is the perfect way to amplify the admiration from your fans. I think somebody deserves a Nobel Prize.
The first thing that needs to be noted of their summer tour, is their use of lights and projections. It’s just so beautiful, and eclectic, and just adds to the sheer scope of the performance; because who doesn’t want something cool to look at while they listen to music? They also added some lady vocalist/tambourinist to the touring group this time around, and while I’m not sure she added anything special to the mix, she frankly didn’t hurt either. The other cool thing about the concert was that they just connected most of the songs together so seamlessly, barring a few tunings and instrument swaps. So while we didn’t get a whole lot of talk from leader John Gourley, it honestly wasn’t that big of a deal. In the end, the show almost felt like one giant medley, which is pretty dope when you think about it.
So they opened with the thumping, bombastic second single off of the new album Evil Friends. It’s honestly the only sensible choice for a tour like this seeing as it promotes the new material and can really hype someone up right off the bat, so I’m glad they chose it. The other songs from this record I remember them playing were, of course, the title track and first single, “Modern Jesus,” “Hip Hop Kids,” and “Creep In a T-Shirt.” In my opinion, I think they unleashed “Evil Friends” too soon, considering it was pretty early in the set, and from what I observed, most people weren’t ready to go all out and headbang to a song that when played live, requires it. They also obviously played a lot of songs from In the Mountain in the Cloud, their last release only other record on a major label, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it is also arguably packed with concert ready songs. But they effectively mixed in some deeper cuts too, which shows they know how to effectively service longtime fans as well as new ones.
Seemingly out of nowhere, they ended with a heavy rendition of “Hey Jude” that just had everybody begging for more. And like any respectable band would, they gave the people what the wanted. Portugal came back out for a lengthy encore that started with another new song, “Sea of Air” and slowly but surely evolved into second hard-rocking Beatles cover, this time in the form of “Helter Skelter.” That intermission music made all the more sense now. Then, by the time the band left the stage for a second time, what should start blasting through the speakers but another one of Jay-Z’s hits from The Black Album, “99 Problems,” a song I can always relate to. How epic.
Portugal. The Man puts on a damn good show, and even though it pains me to say it, if you weren’t able to make it to The Pabst on June 21st, well, you missed out big time and should be chided for doing so. Yet, based on how bassist and perpetual member Zach Carothers praised the city and venue, I’m betting they’ll be back as soon as they get the chance. Hopefully that’ll be sooner rather than later.