Review: Portugal. The Man create a dreamy, joyful atmosphere at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa
Flanked by Jagermeister banner promotions and a stage set like a trippy ship, Portugal. The Man’s gig at the Ritz Wednesday night created a Candyland ambience complete with sugar-coated melodies. Some folks consider the Wasilla, Ak.-via-Portland, Ore. band to be rock, and for some ears, that might be true. But their sound is too blissful to be solely that.
The title of their latest album (their sixth in six years), In the Mountain, In the Clouds, better describes their audio niche: one foot on rock ground, while the other is high above (higher than frontman John Gourley’s vocal range) in a transcendental cloud. And how astute of them to cleverly craft an allegorical visual by using ropes strung with light-up buoys to arch over them like dreamscapes.
Atmospherically, it was perfect and inviting (except for the liberal Jägermeister advertisements, but being the sponsor of the tour, they can do that).
In a move of musical feng shui, band members spread across the stage, anchoring left, right and middle, sans a main member front and center. They opened with So American followed by All Your Light (Times Like These), and proceeded to reach back and gift fans with songs from their entire catalog, plus an indie version of Helter Skelter.
Things may have sounded different to some, and the band apologized for it. Apparently, they lost their drummer a couple nights before and are continuing the tour without him. Rumor has it there was an onstage argument and the drummer walked off, quitting the band indefinitely. Good thing they have experience with a kick drum (which bassist Zachary Carothers used) and the spotty help of Braydn Krueger, drummer from opener The Lonely Forest. The sporadic drums weren’t so much a detraction as was the heavy distortion that sometimes swallowed the lyrics in a sonic wash. But move to the right side of the room, and the words were clear, even the backing female vocals. Although a little off-putting, the imbalance somehow still worked.
It wasn’t the type of show that invoked everyone to dance. Some did, but others stood in deep contemplation, hands wrapped around chins, processing the warm scene and lyrical mantras like “We’ll be reborn / Yeah we’ll simply be free / We’ll be the colors / That pour through the streets.” You didn’t have to drink the Kool-Aid to feel it. They’re soulful, happy, uplifting. They probably couldn’t sing a sad song if they tried.
And so followed joyful renditions of The Sun, Work All Day, People Say and Do You. Closing song Sleep Forever transformed into an effervescent Hey Jude and provoked the ubiquitous chant of “one more song.” They came back out for a golden goodbye with And I.
Oh prolific Portugal. Aesthetically, sometimes they appeared in the shadows, and sometimes in the light, but no matter the scene, their floating riffs carried a buoyancy of being that made you just happy to be present for the intimate ride on their cloud nine.
— Stephanie Bolling, tbt*