As the summer festival line ups began to roll out, we were all still sitting with bated breath waiting for Osheaga 2018 to be announced. Thankfully, Portugal. The Man were in Montreal on February 21st to help take our minds off of the wait. The MTelus was looking beautiful as a sold-out crowd filled both the room and their reusable plastic cups to the brim.
Twin Peaks (Chicago, IL) opened the show with their take on 60s garage rock revival. Much like The Strokes and Cage The Elephant, their sound is largely based around abrasive guitar freak outs and groove driven drumming. Early on, they focused on their latest release, 2016’s Down In Heaven, truly hitting their stride on “Walk to the One You Love,” which sounds like something The Beatles would have done if they grew up in the southern U.S. Vocalist and guitarist Clay Frankel was a ball of frenetic energy, carrying the songs as much with his body language as his guitar.
Twin Peaks delved into their older material through the middle of the set as between jams Frankel complimented Molson Canadian beer and crushed one to the entire crowd chanting “Chug! Chug! Cug!” Meanwhile, bassist Jack Dolan called out to the vendor in the crowd for a beer, which was brought to him. Upon asking how much he owed, he was thrilled to learn it was on the house! Twin Peaks are what rock and roll is all about. They closed out the set with “Strawberry Smoothie,” just after guitarist Caiden Lake James encouraged everyone to buy merch so that they could buy more drugs, and the circle of life goes on!
It might seem a little out of the ordinary to start a set with a cover, but Portugal. The Man (Portland, OR) are no ordinary band! How about two covers in a row? That’s how the show opened, with Metallica‘s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” The strategy paid off and the crowd was into it from the start, dancing and jumping as the stage lights cascaded beautiful colours and patterns across them. These were seriously some next level lights and visuals, probably the best you could witness for a show that’s not in an arena. Portugal. The Man laced into their originals “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” “Number One,” (a song that samples Richie Havens’ “Freedom”) and “Atomic Man,” making it quite apparent that we were in for a solid mix of tunes spanning their entire catalogue. Noting that they are not much for on-stage banter, although bassist and vocalist Zach Carothers did have a few passing remarks, the band had some hilarious messages that would pop up on the big screen throughout the set. Some memorable one’s included “We are Portugal. The Man. Just wanted to make sure you’re at the right show” and “Thanks for buying/stealing our latest album.”
About mid set Portugal, The Man rolled into “Feel It Still,” the infectious hit off their album Woodstock, and I don’t know if it was a product of the vocals being way too low in the mix, something I noticed as the set wore on, but it lacked some explosiveness and fell kind of flat. However, they brought it back nicely with some killer dynamic shifts towards the set’s climax with the slow paced, sing-along “Sea Of Air” followed by the groovy “So Young” and anthemic “So American.” The crowd beseeched them for an encore and joined in on the singing of “Hip Hop Kids” with a chorus that was built for a giant crowd to sing.
I truly love it when a set is well-constructed and hits on all the elements of a band’s career. And as a band’s repertoire grows, this can become a more and more challenging task. Portugal. The Man proved on this night, touring off of their eighth studio album, that they are experts at crafting an immaculate set of songs.
Written by Lee Ferguson
Photography by Marie-Emmanuelle Laurin
*edited by Kate Erickson