Portugal. The Man/Grouplove – Rumsey Playfield – September 16, 2014
Midway through their set at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on Tuesday—the closing night of the Honda Civic Tour—Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper declared that the tour was all about “making art.” As incongruous as that may sound, the show was one of those rare instances where live rock and roll was elevated to an art form: the music, the lights, the visuals and the crowd interaction. The pairing of Grouplove with Portugal. The Man was an inspired billing, each band bringing a different aesthetic and energy to the performance, and both inspiring a whole lot of singing along, clapping along, waving arms along, pretty much everything along.
After a big-sound set from Typhoon, Grouplove entered amidst a cloud of smoke and a haze of hip-hop over the PA. Their set was 70 minutes of cathartic, jubilant bounce, beginning with the opening “I’m with You” and its sing-along-ready ah ah ahs and oh oh ohs. The audience was in it from the start. Grouplove’s free-form sing-along contrasted with the visuals, which had a sleek, modern feel, colorful geometric rectangles or simulated multihued television static danced on the large-screen backdrop while the audience danced in front. Everyone loves a hit, and Grouplove played plenty of them, highlighted by the ecstatic groover “Tongue Tied.” The set peaked with the couplet of “Slow” and “Borderlines and Aliens,” and particularly the space in between the two, where lights, the band’s movement and the pulsing drums worked together as one entity, eventually releasing into a wild guitar jam. After a rousing “Colours” to close their part of the show, the band returned for a rare mid-show encore, bringing along members of Portugal. The Man for a crowd-riling version of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” everyone screaming the classic lyrics. Any other night it would have been the ultimate sing-along, but there was more to come.
A quick breather later, Portugal. The Man returned and picked up right where Grouplove left off, with another classic-rock along, covering a verse and a chorus or two of Pink Floyd’s anthemic “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” before quickly kicking into their own “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” Their aesthetic was more bright-eyed psychedelic, like crawling into a living version of frontman John Gourley’s bizarre drawings. That is until the lasers came out, transforming Rumsey Playfield into an alien planet, with Portugal. The Man’s music as a galactic soundtrack. The band was in top form, looping verses of multiple songs into coherent medleys, stretching others, like “All Your Light,” into prog-rock freak-outs and dropping snippets of perfectly placed covers throughout. This was live music as art form, the audience digging every moment and singing from beginning to end. Like Grouplove had done, the band saved the biggest moment for their encore, which began with their slow-build rager “Sleep Forever” and ended with all of Grouplove and Typhoon onstage—horns, strings and all—for the second ultimate sing-along of the night, everyone belting out the coda to “Hey Jude”: the final touch on a work of art. —A .Stein