My dad always used to critique a live performance on how it compared to the recorded music. If the band sounded pretty much the same live or recorded, it was a good show; if not, well…
If this was the only standard my father held a band to during a show, he would have thought Portugal. The Man's performance tonight was awful. Watching Portugal. The Man perform and listening to one of its records are two completely different experiences—the albums are precise with an air of experimentation within the blues/soul genre, but live, the Portland (or Alaska, or Seattle)–based quartet acts as a jam band. The boys began their set with “Church Mouth,” the first (and title) track off their second album. About halfway through the song, vocalist John Gourley swiftly transitions into Harry Nilsson's “One,” strumming his oversized guitar, and just when you think the song is over, the band breaks back into “Church Mouth,” picking up where it left off.
Portugal. The Man continued its performance in the same vein—Gourley and company enhance each song by either altering the lyrics (“Sugar Cinnamon”) or extending instrumental bridges and solos (“My Mind”). Its energy was high—bassist Zach Carothers, thrashes his bass with each pluck, and belts out backup vocals, while Ryan Neighbors pounds his keyboard or strikes a bongo with a drumstick, also belting out his part. Gourley transferred his energy in a calmer way. He positioned his microphone stand sideways so he does not directly face the audience. He frequently walked around the stage, delicately picking his guitar strings, with his back turned to the audience. He is debonair, and though he rarely addresses the audience, he is appreciative. “Thank you so much,” the petite, mustachioed singer says to the soldout audience during one of the rare pauses between songs. “This was very unexpected. Thank you all for coming out.”
After Portugal. The Man plays its last song, Gourley thanks the audience again for attending and mentions that the band just finished recording an album, which should be released this summer. From the sounds of a few new songs, it shouldn't be a disappointment.
And then they all left the stage, never to return for an encore. (Weird, right?) Yeah, my dad sure would've hated this one.
Portugal. The ManSpace
Photo by Katrina Nattress