Portugal. The Man Slays Terminal 5

October 21st, 2011

Portugal. The Man – Terminal 5 – October 20, 2011

Lots of bands play New York City. Probably a zillion of them this week for CMJ alone. But not all of them do New York City the way Portugal. The Man does, with extra shows and secret sets that you’re likely to miss if you’re not paying attention. Already this week has seen two intimate acoustic sets in the same afternoon around town. So when playing their biggest headlining show to date at Terminal 5 last night, there was little doubt that it would be more than just another show.

Taking the stage in a cloud of smoke, the band opened with “So American” off their newest album, In the Mountain in the Cloud. Instead of continuing with new material, the band ripped through 30 minutes of older stuff (like “AKA M80 the Wolf”), strobe-light-induced jams and an in-your-face cover of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” before even touching another new track. From there, the band zigzagged through their catalog, barely pausing for breath.

Portugal. The Man was a dichotomy in action, the Young Lady or an Old Hag? illusion. Is this a band that plays irresistible pop songs that had the entire room singing along to every chorus or is it one that turns its back on the audience, letting itself get lost in the smoke and lights with dragon-slaying guitar? Were those psychedelic orbs populating the stage oversize ping-pong balls succumbing to gravity’s will or were they bubbles escaping to the sky? After a 100-minute set of Portugal. The Man doing New York City like few do, including a five-song encore (that included the clever coupling of their “People Say” into a cover of its musical cousin Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger”), the answer of course is: either. Or both. Depends on how you look at it. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Greg Aiello |