The lights went dark as fog machines blew smoke onto the stage in full force. Giant quintropods made of stringed orbs lit the stage with color, silhouetting Portugal. The Man, as the band began the night rocking to the tune of “So American.” Towards the end of the song, a large instrumental jam took shape and suddenly the band was playing “Work All Day.” All the members continued strumming and drumming nonstop, playing long solos and non-vocal interludes, transforming the set into an extended medley. This continued for 11 songs, including covers of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and Mott The Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes.” Portugal. The Man probably would have continued the rest of the set without stopping, but after finishing off “All Your Light,” singer John Gourley took a breather stating, “When you play a whole song out of tune, you know that’s when you have to take a break.”
The band kept trucking through another nine songs, each with mind-blowing guitar, drum, key and bass solos. After rocking for a solid hour and 20 minutes, the lights went dark, and from the darkness Gourley earnestly thanked the audience before playing “Senseless” and “Sleep Forever.” As he transitioned from one into the other, he laughed and told the audience, “I can’t believe I played that solo wrong, I’m so sorry.” The audience easily forgave him; awesome shredding is awesome shredding even if it isn’t intended. After playing for an hour and a half the band left the stage.
But this wasn’t the end for these charismatic Alaskans via Portland, OR. Portugal. The Man came back for a 15 minute encore that included “People Say,” a cover of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” a sloppy rendition of “My Mind” (after Gourley enthusiastically confessed, “I don’t remember the words to this song, but we’re still gonna play it,”) a jam session and a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come.”
Portugal. The Man plays Wednesday, October 19 at the Ace Hotel as part of the Free Yr Radio/KEXP live broadcast and Thursday, October 20 at Terminal 5 during CMJ 2011.
All photos below by Annie Lesser