In Portland, it's a rare treat to catch the opening night of a tour. Smack in the middle of popular concert hubs Vancouver and Los Angeles, with Seattle and San Francisco as stops along the way, our city is usually the third stop on jaunts that begin on the West Coast, or the third-to-last on ones that conclude on the left side of the country. For some reason though, LA R&B star Miguel chose to launch his War & Leisure Tour at the Roseland Theater on Feb. 22
"I've been looking forward to this day for the past seven months," he announced to the sold-out crowd, probably referring to the moment he finished work on his fourth album, which shares the tour's name and was released last December.
His enthusiasm was apparent throughout, both in the four-piece backing band's energetic performances and especially in Miguel's athletic onstage strutting, which left him sweating through his third shirt of the night. Coy smiles and pelvic thrusts abounded, furthering his reputation as a sex symbol and emphasizing the carnal aspects of his music, which are already written in bold and double-underlined to begin with.
True to its title, War & Leisure found Miguel interspersing reflections on world events with his usual horndogging. Onstage, though, he turned every potentially preachy moment into a punchline.
"I have something very serious to ask you," he announced between songs. Straight-faced, he waited patiently for the crowd to quiet down before cracking a smile and inquiring, "Do you guys like drugs?" It was a perfect segue into his 2012 stoner sex jam "Do You," which was then skillfully blended into a "Pass The Dutchie" cover.
The performance often came close to veering into choreographed gimmickry, but Miguel's playful demeanor made his banter and suggestive dance moves seem more organic than they may have actually been. His roguish surfer swagger belied the fact that he clearly knows how to work a crowd, often rearranging his songs so that their most minimal moments coincided with his most explicit lyrics.
Before concluding the night with his two biggest singles, "Adorn" and "Skywalker," Miguel allowed the audience to issue a challenge to the crowd that would greet him in Seattle the following night. "Seattle, say 'What up' to Portland," he said into his phone, turning it toward the raucous audience. Even if attendance at the next venue trumps the Roseland's, so what? Portland got the first Miguel show of 2018. We're allowed to gloat about it.