Review: Portugal. The Man deliver a range of rock styles at Crowbar
Touring for their just released album, American Ghetto, Wasilla, Alaska’s Portugal. The Man gave a near-capacity crowd at Ybor City's Crowbar a stellar show Wednesday night.
Portugal is a difficult band to pin down. It’s easy to pick the influences and inspirations out of their music. Intentional or not, the Beatles, Bowie, southern-fried soul, 70’s prog-rock, Radiohead and the Afghan Whigs (just to name a few) seem to be in air.
For the inexperienced band, drawing from such a wide range of music might make for cluttered songs. Over the course of six albums in four years, Portugal. The Man has been progressively layering and craft brewing their sound. No one influence takes over and dominates; rather they all come together like multiple axes on a graph.
While Portugal’s albums are fairly polished affairs, in concert, they take things to a whole new level. Led by singer/guitarist John Baldwin Gourley, the songs are stretched out and the volume turned up. Gourley’s vocals range from a smooth, vulnerable pseudo-falsetto to gritty and soulful. His drowning-in-echo guitarwork is a perfectly mixed bag of R&B chords and licks with some prog riffs and feedback thrown in for good measure.Filling the open spaces within the rhythmic guitar work were Ryan Neighbors’ organ, Rhodes piano and synth playing. While the electronic flourishes are more prominent on their records, a nice balance was achieved at Wednesday's show. The organ and Rhodes cut through at just the right times. Little synth noises and simple drum machine beats popped up to help change the mood and dynamics as needed. Drummer Jason Sechrist kept a steady, sexy groove going throughout the night. Never getting too busy, he kept the songs driving forward. But the true workhorse of the night was bassist Zachary Carothers. While holding station between the rhythm and melody, he relentlessly attacked his instrument with zealousness not seen in most bass players. Without missing a beat, he flailed about, ripping at the strings, bending the neck, banging and hitting his bass. His enthusiasm helped fuel the energy level of the crowd and the band. The crowd at Crowbar loved every moment of this show and desperately wanted more at the end of the set. Crowbar was double booked for the night and had a second event going on after Portugal’s set. Thankfully, the venue was kind enough to let them play just one more.
-- Gabriel Loewenberg, tbt*.