. : : May 27th, 2011 : : .
I came upon Portugal. the Man quite by accident. Really, it had just been a while since I’d gone to see my friends in Arietta play a set, and our schedules had finally aligned. Arietta scored an opening spot for the Alaskan-based band at the Reverb — a small room above the more spacey Kathedral concert venue (They’re now both sadly defunct). Of the two dozen or so people who attended the show that night, I have a feeling a good chunk of them were actually there for the local openers than the international headliners. But those who stuck around to catch Portugal. the Man were given a real treat. The band was loud, brash, but oh, so talented and bluesy. Personality poured into their instruments and out of their amplifiers and filled the room with a set I couldn’t soon forget.
It was a more fitting pairing than the next time I saw the band, opening for, of all people, Rocky Votolato at the El Mocambo. It’s been my experience that the more, shall we say, rockin’ a band is, the less the El Mo is capable of handling the sound. Portugal was one of only two less-than-stellar sounding shows I’ve ever remembered seeing at the venue, and may have soured my interest a bit.
I thereafter found it difficult to stay invested in the band. Less because of the shitty sound of the El Mo (the band was still awesome!) and more because, in my opinion, the band’s live experience has difficulty translating to an album. Whatever the case, the next time (or was it two?) the band came to town, I didn’t exactly clear my schedule to make it out to catch them. However, another queer pairing of Portugal with indie power pop trio Telekinesis was just what the doctor ordered — and at Lee’s Palace, a venue that has yet to truly disappoint.
I wrote a little about Lee’s Palace’s new sound system in my last post, for Telekinesis’ opening set. In a nutshell, let’s just say it’s freakin’ loud. I know, I must be getting old — but it was painfully loud where I was standing. To my surprise, considering this was a band that only a few years prior couldn’t draw enough people to fill the venue’s bathroom, Lee’s Palace was wall-to-wall filled solid with people. When did they blow up so big, and how did I miss it?
They brought a few new tricks up their sleeve (at least since I’d last seen them). The first one was a smoke machine that added an air of mystery to an already pretty mysterious band (for example, you’ll notice there’s all of two banter tracks on this recording — and even that was stretching it). The second was an eye-popping lights and lasers show that meant if the band was obscured by smoke, you still had something interesting to look at. Lastly was a mostly more straight-forward rock sound than I remembered them having before, but it seemed to work for them. The crowd danced, shouted and sang along passionately all night. We had fun.
There were so many set highlights that kept me in place, including The Sun, Colors, People Say, a great Etta James cover, and the set closing number (and my favourite P.TM song) AKA M80 The Wolf, despite my ears begging me to go home and return next time with earplugs.
That being said, I had to throw in the towel after the main set and forsake the encore, so this recording is incomplete — even at a solid 80-minutes! The recording is good, but the onslaught of sound emanating from the stage overpowered the vocals at points. Also, as the night grew later and the girls grew drunker, more conversation starts happening around me — but nothing unusual or overly distracting. A good tape that fans of the band will definitely get a kick out of. New fans — to get the REAL Portugal. The Man experience, make sure you catch them when you’re in town. There’s no recording alive, professional or amateur, that does their show justice.
02. How The Leopard Got Its Spots
03. Guns and Dogs
04. Do You?
05. The Dead Dog
08. The Sun
10. The Home
12. Got It All
14. New Orleans
15. Bellies Are Full
16. I’d Rather Go Blind [Etta James]
18. 60 Years
20. People Say
21. AKA M80 The Wolf
Thanks to Portugal. The Man, Telekinesis, and everyone at Lee’s Palace except for the annoying talkers.