Portugal. The Man – The Bowery Ballroom – November 7, 2016
It’s been a while since New York City has gotten a proper headlining show from Portugal. The Man. While there have been some coheadlining bills to keep their fans (slightly) satisfied over the past couple of years, the packed house at The Bowery Ballroom last night was justifiably antsy awaiting the Portland, Ore., band. That wait was filled with a psychedelic variety show of openers from stand-up comedy to German rappers. PTM have filled their tour with an upside-down assortment of friends, giving the entire affair a family feel that extended to the sold-out audience. Indeed, to be a fan of the group has a part-of-the-club feel and the room felt filled with diehards hoping their heroes would deliver.
Not to worry: Portugal. The Man’s set was well worth the wait. They opened with the title track to their 2007 album, Church Mouth, which hasn’t been in their repertoire for many years but still sizzled with up-to-date energy. The even older “Chicago”—its frenetic blasts of punk-prog, frontman John Gourley singing, “Burn this motherfucker down”—followed, and it was clear that this was a PTM that NYC hadn’t seen for quite some time. The rest of the set list was an expertly designed back and forth through the Portugal. The Man songbook, old and new, alternating from beautiful to cathartic to pure evil accompanied by unique bulbous lights, spheres of colors giving the effect of a sci-fi rock show. The crowd reveled in the invigorated set, the band artfully stringing together multiple songs, finding new places to insert extra guitar excursions and strobe-light climaxes.
“All Your Light” has long been a set centerpiece, but last night it seemed to realize its full potential as a triumphant suite with multiple bass-drum-guitar-keys rock-outs, eventually peaking with the outro to the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” feeling very much like it could have been a PTM original. Along the way, they still managed to hit all the beloved sing-alongs and pretty much all of their most recent Evil Friends album, although with plenty of impressive reinvention throughout, stretching the set well past the 100-minute mark. They finally finished with an expert pairing of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” with their own “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” everyone in the crowd triumphantly singing, dancing and waving their hands in the air, hoping it won’t be too long before the next one. —A. Stein | @Neddyo