Leave it to Portugal the Man to exceed expectations when I went into their show Sunday night for their second of two shows at the Hollywood Palladium already considering them one of the best live bands actively touring.
For the final few shows of their tour, the Portland-bred indie rockers brought a special string and brass section along for the ride. Oftentimes when bands utilize this, it’s only for a handful of songs. But for this, they were involved for pretty much the entire duration of their nearly two-hour set.
The show began with a message on the screen that the band isn’t great at stage banter, noting that messages would appear from time to time in lieu of that. Nobody complained at the lack of talk between songs, as they launched into a rendition of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” before transitioning into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” and their own masterpiece “Purple Yellow Red and Blue”. Nobody does medleys like Portugal the Man — each transition as seamless as the one before it.
At Bonnaroo earlier this year, I was mesmerized by a light show on par with some of the biggest acts in electronic music — ironic given they were booked in the same time slot as Major Lazer on one of the outdoor stages. They brought that same production with them to the Palladium and whenever you looked up to the sky after jamming out to their set, your eyes were hypnotized by the lasers.
The strings and brass section was one thing, the light show was another. But the band also had a couple of dancers on stage moving around, their shadows projecting against the screen behind them in a really groovy way.
The fragility of John Baldwin Gurley’s falsetto is one of the signatures of Portugal the Man. He holds the high notes extremely well and you can hear the strain in his voice while he does it. It is a perfect complement to the band’s varied sound, which can jump around from really heavy to funky and more dance-oriented.
The show is in support of the band’s latest record WOODSTOCK — one of the better rock albums to emerge in 2017, a record capable of launching the band to even greater heights. It doesn’t hurt that they are in the midst of playing the best shows of their careers — it’s been an almost perfect storm of things for the band.
The band even played the signature hit from their new album twice — the catchy-as-fuck “Feel It Still”. Nobody complained when it came around the second time as they danced twice as hard as they did when it was played in the show’s first act. The second time it was played, it was accompanied by a message on screen “Let’s get weird” — and they delivered on that.
After a rousing version of “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)” that featured one of many extended jam breakdowns, the band finished their set up with a full cover of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. I had previously seen the band incorporate this cover as part of a medley, but never play the track in its entirety. In a set full of singalong anthems, it was one of the better ones.
Prior to kicking off the encore, bassist Zachary Scott Carothers addressed the crowd for the first time after more than 90 minutes of rocking out. The show was broadcast live via Twitter by LiveNation, allowing those not lucky enough to be in attendance to get a taste of what a Portugal the Man show is like. Surely those who tuned in will be on high alert the next time Portugal the Man tours near their town. I’ve certainly marked this show down with a big star next to it as one of the two or three best concerts I’ve seen in all of 2017.
VIEW THE PORTUGAL THE MAN SETLIST FROM NIGHT TWO AT THE PALLADIUM: