The Lords of Portland, or as you probably know them, Portugal. The Man, graced Vancouver with their presence fresh off their Grammy win for “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” for two nights at the Vogue Theatre. Someone who has newly discovered Portugal. The Man or a fair-weather fan may not feel the gravity of the band’s growth. I hate to ring true to what PTM pokes fun of – “I liked Portugal. The Man before they sold out” – but, what can I say? I damn well did. But also, I still do. I’m a big fan of this self-aware sentence that now adorns their merch for a few reasons, but the most prominent is because it is inadvertently saying that you knew them when, and love them still. To be successful in music, it’s imperative to treat what you do as business. From the looks of it, Portugal. The Man have finally nailed the full package.
Portugal. The Man were in Vancouver just over a year ago playing the Commodore Ballroom stage. The lighting was different, the crowd slightly more sparse. Something huge happened between the last time they were in Vancouver and now; the release of Woodstock. Touring for their 8th studio album – yes, it’s true, they’ve been around for that long – PTM have made it clear that with almost 20 years in the business, they’ve mastered a very specific sound. An indie band that hasn’t been “indie” in nearly a decade, PTM have span the better part of the 2000s experimenting in rock varietals, pushing the limits lyrically while revelling in their own personal influences. They speak of growing up in Alaska listening to Wu-Tang Clan, have an album name inspired by David Bowie, wear Slayer t-shirts and open their show with two covers: “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (Metallica), and “Another Brick in the Wall” (Pink Floyd). So, in the off chance you’re only familiar with “Feel it Still”, you can feel right at home with classics – Portugal. The Man, they’re just like you!
One of my personal favourite things about PTM – besides their writing, and John Gourley’s infectious voice – is how they experiment instrumentally. Listening to PTM’s albums, the breadth of bass and guitar (for instance) is evident. From harder rock, to funk, to blues, they cover it all in their distinct psychedelic way. And though the albums may sound like pop records at first listen (which of course there is nothing wrong with), it takes a keen ear – and maybe an enthusiastic fan to also see them perform live – to note that what they put out there is something acutely exceptional which resembles that of someone(s) trained in rock & roll.
For a group that tours a decent amount (with no sign of slowing down) they play an unexpectedly exciting setlist. They know how big they’ve become in the last year, even still, it’s LP Evil Friends (2013) that is performed almost in entirety. A couple of their older songs are sprinkled in for good measure; “So American” and “People Say”. That said, it would be assumed that “Feel it Still” would be their hold back number until the end or near the end. But it’s planted somewhere in the middle with Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back in Anger” as their 2nd last tune before ending with “Number 1” (among the first 3 singles off of Woodstock). PTM obviously has a sense of humour, one that fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia would have picked up on when they decide to play the song “Dayman”.
Portugal. The Man are the kind of band that’s in on the joke – you can call them rock for hipsters, you can say they’ve sold out. It truly does not matter. They’ve fooled us all. A live performance to near perfection, complete with varying pieces/genres of art scattering across a screen behind them to go along with an 80s era light show. I’m consistently roused by whatever Portugal. The Man does and already cannot wait for their return.
Check out the band’s video for their hit single “Feel It Still” here.