Sunshine Theater played host last week to a brief but righteous concert by Alaska's favorite alternative-blues-chill-vibe-hip-hop-rock quintet Portugal. The Man.
Despite falling trap to Danger Mouse's music box in 2013, Portugal established themselves unique by having an profound work ethic (releasing an album almost every year since 2006) and utilizing melodies so catchy that ramming one's head into a brick wall may just be the only way to free oneself from their grasp.
The group is perhaps most well known for their releases on Atlantic “In the Mountain in the Cloud” (2011) and “Evil Friends” (2013), the latter of which is the album producer Danger Mouse sunk his fangs into. Real quick, actually, let's get this out of the way:
Danger Mouse's instrument is other bands. He finds artists that want to work with him, and makes them sound like him. “Evil Friends” charted high, yet sounds very similar to Danger's previously produced albums:
- “Turn Blue” by the Black Keys,
- “Little Broken Hearts” by Norah Jones,
- “Mondo” by Electric Guest
- and “Modern Guilt” by Beck, to name a few.
I want to start this article off with my biggest gripe regarding PTM's latest record: It might just be too cohesive. It's more of a Danger Mouse record than a PTM album, which is fine I suppose; Portugal was never really about variation anyway.
However, they were about energy, and the energy on “Evil Friends” is fixed.
With that out of the way: Their concert last Saturday had enough energy to power the PNM grid for a solid afternoon. Considering how happy and catchy their music is, the crowd was eager to slam into each other.
As it turns out, that's a good mix of vibes. You had people in arms singing the chorus to tracks like “Got it All” and “Holly Roller,” only to fling themselves halfway across the venue with songs like “Hip-Hop Kids” and “I Want You (She's So Heavy).”
Yes, the same “I Want You (She's So Heavy)” that John Lennon penned in 1969. I was in awe during the song's dense, five-minute ostinato breakdown; the riff would never end, and rose to chants of the crowd emulating the ever-slowing melody, culminating to bassist Zach Carothers slamming the back of his instrument to spill every last bit of noise he could out of it.
The concert was littered with moments like these. The end of almost every song was the introduction into another. They would keep playing music endlessly, with no space nor downtime. In addition to the Beatles cover, Portugal obliterated a rendition of “A Kilo” by Ghostface Killah, as well as “Dayman” by the “Always Sunny In Philadelphia” crew, believe it or not.
The highlight of the show was a three-song suite near the end of the set before the encore. Portugal began to play “Another Brick in The Wall” by Pink Floyd and got as far as the second chorus before transitioning the lyrics “All in all it's just a, another brick in the -” into “When I grow up I want to be...”, the first verse of “Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue.”
It was electric. You could have pulled an Oprah and gave everyone in the crowd a new Honda Accord; they wouldn't of cheered as loudly as they did right then. Moreover, rapper HDBeenDope came out at the song’s climax to throw down a few bars before the bombastic outro, and by that point the audience was seasick from the monumental series of events that just occurred.
Of course the band performed their new singles “Noise Pollution” and “Feel it Still,” but something was definitely... off. They failed to start the former song correctly and there was dissonance between the band's performance and what was happening in the in-ear monitors. They kept the facade up besides a few lyrical repetitions from Gourley to keep the song bouyant; the crowd didn't mind anyway.
Moreover, they played “Feel it Still” twice for some reason; once more after the encore performance of “Atomic Man,” which was notably odd considering how the ending of “Atomic Man” is the most evocative way to end a concert since Queens of the Stone Age threw down “A Song for the Dead” at Reading 2014.
However, the show was solid. I'd be remiss to not recommend checking out a PTM show further down the road — perhaps when their new record comes out this summer. Which, worth noting, was to be strikingly entitled “Gloomin + Doomin,” but the group, unfortunately, downgraded the title to “Woodstock” earlier in March.
To top off an exceptional Saturday night, we ran into Zach Carothers and lead guitarist Eric Howk outside Distillery later after the show. We thanked them for such a great performance, and they ended up chatting with us about the band's plans. It was a moment made even sweeter considering the Daily Lobo had been annoying Red Light Management for two and a half weeks prior to the concert for a media pass.
And, it turns out, Portugal. The Man is comprised of exceptionally nice folk.
“I saw your mug in the audience!” Howk pointed at my friend. “Patagonia jacket, we look for that, we're all from up north.” He garnered an easy laugh from us.
“The new album is still being mixed, everything's already recorded.” Carothers went on to divulge. “Still aiming for a summer release, no exact date yet.”
I recalled an old rumor I heard on a Wednesday afternoon, many months ago: “I heard the new record is more hip-hop oriented this time around?”
“Nah, it's as hip-hop as the rest of our discography goes. We've always dabbled. That Ghostface cover though, eh?” I spilled more adjectives, such as “awesome” and “insane,” trying to construct sentences to convey what they put us through a few hours ago.
Howk shared my enthusiasm. He seemingly still had adrenaline running through his veins from the show. The guitarist joined the band in mid 2016; this is his first tour with the group.
“I'm the new guy, but I got the best job man.”
“The last few gigs we're pretty low energy, compared to this one at least. Albuquerque is where it's at.”
They laid out the rest of their tour — a drive up to Aspen, Colorado “in 45 minutes,” which effectively meant leaving at 1 a.m. in their tour bus. Much to our surprise
We parted ways after five or so minutes, but not before I asked Carothers for a particular favor,
“Please never stop making music.”
He smiled, and assured my worries were unfounded.
“We're always at it!”
Audrin Baghaie is the music editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AudrinTheOdd.