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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Portugal. The Man POP 2013

Portugal. The Man  |  POP 2013

ECSTASY FROM ALASKA  |  KAIVA BRAMMANIS
PHOTOS  |  SUSAN MOSS

Sept. 26, 2013 - Just who is Portugal. The Man? A group of outrageous musicians with trippy lyrics, a ridiculous name, and distorted cartoons spilled all over their album covers? Or just a bunch of friendly dudes from Alaska? Are they really weird, or not weird at all? After their Pop Montreal show, I have to say: it’s hard to tell. They’re hard put in a category – and let’s face it, that funny period in their band name doesn’t even really let you put them in one sentence. Whoever they are, one thing’s for sure: they can put on a good show.

“All I wanna do is live in ecstasy… I know what’s best for me,” lead vocalist John Baldwin Gourley wails into the microphone. The crowd is, well, ecstatic. It’s the second night of Pop Montreal, Corona Theatre is sold out, and Portugal. The Man has taken the stage for their first song. “I just wanna feel,” Gourley continues, in his inimitable voice, “purple yellow red and blue,” and the sound explodes as all the instruments roll into a beat that gets the crowd dancing immediately.

The song launches a set of swirling, dizzying tunes that build up into one euphoric chorus after another. Lights flash. The stage behind the band contributes to the sensory overload, with its giant cutout of jagged, zigzagging peaks flashing with projected cartoons in every colour imaginable: creatures with strange limbs wiggle around on the screen and lights leak out in weird patterns. Semi-indecipherable lyrics lead to full-out moments of jamming out as each instrument is pushed to its limit and everything knots together into a beautifully dense sound. The band members look so serious, and then all of a sudden they step back, grinning at each other as if they can’t believe it. They’ve been playing for years, but they have the gratitude that emanates from a band at their first real show. 

Both their older and newer songs elicit cheers from the audience, though the most popular ones are the tunes with choruses ideal for singing along. “Modern Jesus” is one such song, as is “Hip Hop Kids” and “Sea of Air.” To someone not extensively familiar with their musical repertoire (i.e., me) the songs are all a bit similar – though this is not a bad thing. 

After last song, when the audience hollers for more and the band comes back on, one member launches into a long speech profusely thanking the audience. There are a few more minutes of high energy, chaotic encore tunes before the last number of the night, which segues into a satisfying “Hey Jude” singalong. Everyone loves a good naa-na-na-na-naaah, and it’s a perfect transition out of the craziness.

Though I only catch the last two or three songs of their set, opener How Sad definitely deserves a mention as well. A local favourite, the band could be easily summed up as happy sounding tunes with not-always-so-happy lyrics – but it’s not as simple as that. They play pop songs saturated with longing, regret, and genuine affection, and still maintain an amazingly danceable drumbeat at the same time. How Sad closes with “Indian Summer,” a song that’s hard to stay still to. Its notes of nostalgia are also incredibly relatable, especially in late September, when you’re still clinging to summer, voluntarily blind to the fact that winter is approaching at a soulcrushing pace. You might as well dance while you’re doing it, so find How Sad the next time they’re playing. If the large crowd at their free Divan Orange show the following day is any indication, you’ll have many more chances to do so.



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