Portugal. The Man jam out at intimate Club Bahia gig

Clearly the hot ticket in L.A. on Tuesday night, the line to get in to see Portugal. The Man at an intimate 350-capish Echo Park venue was pretty lengthy even just 30 minutes before the five-piece was set to take the stage.

Over the past 10 years or so, few bands out there have learned how to craft indie rock anthems the way they have. On Tuesday night, they gave a bit of a preview that they might be headed in a slightly different direction based on the new material from their upcoming and long-awaited new record.

Playing a sold-out gig at Echo Park’s Club Bahia, the pride and joy of Alaska delivered a nearly two-hour long marathon set to a pack of rabid fans who have been rocking with them since they blew up.

The kicked off their set with one of their dozen or so anthems, “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” from 2013’s Evil Friends. It’s hard to believe, but that’s the last record the band put out. From 2006 to 2013, the group averaged a record per year, but Woodstock will mark the first record in four years. The release date has yet to be announced, but fans have clearly been clamoring for new tunes.

The group played the two singles off the upcoming record and they each signal the band might be headed in a slightly different direction. “Feel It Still” dropped a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a beat-driven track that sounds like a Leon Bridges song mixed with Pharrell’s “Happy.” Missing is the usual Portugal. The Man choruses we are used to. It’s also not as much of a guitar-driven jam as most of their big hits. It’s clear that the time between records has brought a freshness to their sound.

Even with the long time between records, Portugal. The Man have hardly been absent from the live scene. They’ve sprinkled in festival appearances over the past few years, keeping their live show as sharp as it ever was. The way the group seamlessly transitions from song to song without you even realizing it is one of their most impressive traits.

Frontman John Gourley slayed all night on the guitar, and his falsetto is one of the band’s many strengths. But it’s also the depth they bring to their songs on stage. As a five-piece, they’ve really bloomed and fleshed out some of their hits in such an organic way, and the extended jams that accompany many of the songs had my neck sore the next morning from banging my head too vigorously.

You think the rap-like rhymes that heavily proliferate most of their hits would be hard for some people to follow, but the die-hard crowd didn’t miss a bar as they sang along to tracks like “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now),” “Hip Hop Kids,” “Creep in a T-Shirt,” and “Modern Jesus.” The crowd was a bit weird during this show. I saw some shoving going on, and even a physical altercation between a guy and a girl right at the front of the crowd.

If you weren’t able to make it in to see Portugal. The Man at their intimate Club Bahia gig, fear not. They’ll be back around Los Angeles on Saturday, July 29 for a date at the Hollywood Palladium. They’ll also be making stops on the festival circuit with shows at Shaky Knees, FPSF, and Bonnaroo on the list of stops.

Photos courtesy of Shea Carter