Portugal. The Man Crescent Ballroom Friday, April 6
When a band spends a considerable amount of time on the road, as Portugal. The Man has since the release of In the Mountain in the Cloud almost a year ago, the cumulative effects begin to show in the performance. Fortunately for the Crescent Ballroom crowd Friday night, Phoenix was the band's first stop after a lengthy, and much needed, break.
The band came on stage inspired, full of energy and clearly happy to get back to doing what they do. The set opened with an almost techno intro to "All Your Light (Times Like These)" from the new album. With heavy bass and primal drumming, the song set the stage for the evening as song after song worked through slower moments to eventually becoming a sonic assault--of the best kind, of course. It may have been seriously loud, at times thunderous, but all the touring paid off with an incredibly tight sound that was super clean.
Adding to the fun were giant lights spread across and above the stage and extending over the crowd. Switching between blue, red, yellow, green and white--or acting as a strobe light--these only served to accentuate the music and heighten the frenzy among the nearly full house.
After the opening tease from In the Mountain, the band selected nuggets from its other six albums. Tracks from the more electronic and pulsing American Ghetto got the crowd into dance mode, while more contemplative tracks off Censored Colors (including "1989" and an ethereal "Colors") and the R&B-influenced The Satanic Satanist unleashed pent-up energies in pure alt-rock fashion.
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Yet each time the band returned to the deservedly hyped-up In the Mountain, the audience response grew accordingly. The album's something of a college radio staple these days, attracting a new, curious audience, but many fans clearly knew P.TM's deeper catalog. For them, that was a great thing as it took awhile to get back to the new stuff. Eventually, the band deftly slipped in a gritty "Floating (Time Isn't Working My Side)," and an intensely moving "Sleep Forever," which segued into a set closing "Hey Jude" refrain. Earlier the band slipped into The Beatles' "Helter Skelter" with a fuzzy, high-octane version that epitomized the song title.
The band closed out the 205 minute show with "So American." Bassist Zach Caruthers reminded the crowd the video was shot in Tempe. "Some of you were in it," he said, gesturing at the crowd, as the kicked into the swelling intro. The only slightly mellower "And I," from Censored Colors, helped bring the crowd down.
There's a reason Portugal. The Man has been caught in whirlwind of activity for most of the past year. The band may make great records in the studio, but live, they're even better.
Last Night: Portugal. The Man (not to be confused with Portugal. The Country).
Personal bias: As a former Alaska resident I always pull for the homeboys, however, I do actually think the music kicks ass.
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The crowd: One woman looked like she had to be a relative of someone in the band, though indie scenesters, tattooed love boys and frat idiots filled the place out.
Random notebook dump: The sound is much better at the Crescent than Rialto in Tucson (where I saw the band last November).
Overheard: On the way out the door, "Are you OK to drive?" "Yeah, I'm looking forward to it." "Shit, give me the keys--now!"