Hot Band for a Hot Night

August 6th, 2009

Portugal. The Man – Mercury Lounge – August 5, 2009

Portugal. The Man
In a summer that’s been uncharacteristically cool, yesterday stood out as particularly warm and humid—air that’s thick in the lungs and practically moist to the touch. The sensation lasted well into the evening when Portugal. The Man played at Mercury Lounge. Their music was deep, dark, dreamy and dense with a humidity that filled the room, condensing directly onto the bodies of the sold-out crowd.

With dark purple and red lights behind them, the band ripped through an 80-plus minute set that barely ebbed enough to let us wipe our brows. The audience required no respite, happily sweating up a storm while the onslaught of guitar, drums, bass, keys and psychedelic falsetto harmonies generated its own oppressive heat. The songs were twisted and organic, some winding through multiple passages and extended instrumental interludes while others just came as short, intense blasts of volume.  There was little separation between songs or instruments: To pick out and highlight one tune from another or one player from the band would be like calling out the color yellow as most instrumental to the success of a rainbow when it takes all of them to reach the pot of gold. (Although, damn, that was some intense drumming.)

Watching the crowd, I must admit I was jealous, wishing I were already deep enough in the cult to sing along to every song, call out for my favorite selections from the back catalog, and anticipate every tangential change three clicks in advance. All in good time, I suppose. For the first bit I found myself thinking “this sounds like [fill in the blank]!” but very quickly, things ran together, the energy became fully amorphous, sweat and dew became indistinguishable and I realized that it sounds like nothing else but Portugal. The Man. This may very well be my new favorite band. —A. Stein