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Portugal. The Man brought a little piece of home with them when they stopped by the House of Blues this week. Towering over the band was a cutout outline of a mountain range, striking similarity to their home state of Alaska. The mountains would provide backdrop for the band’s projections throughout the night.
After opening band Crystal Fighters perform their set of what I’d call electro, bongo pop-punk songs, we were treated to reggae versions of Beatles songs while the stage got prepared for Portugal, in a way foreshadowing what was to come. The band then took the stage to a recording of an old soul song, greatly contrasting Crystal Fighters’ sound. Posted up in front of the mountains, Portugal started the show with their current hit, which you can hear on WERS, “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” They drew out the beginning, making the crowd grow in anticipation as we waited for the drum beat to drop. It finally happened, the projector flashed green lasers over the mountains, and everyone sang along; “All I want to do is/ Live in ecstasy/ I know what’s best for me.” And that was pretty much the theme for the night.
“All Your Light (Times Like These),” off of their 2011 album In The Mountain In The Cloud, came next. Towards the end of the song, they flipped it around and got real heavy, pretty much changing it into a slow and sludgey stoner metal song with guitars roaring like mountain lions. Without stopping, Portugal transitions into The Satanic Satanist’s “The Home.” During these songs, and many other through the night, the ever-present mountains were alive with animations that looked like Adventure Time on acid.
Portugal then played “Evil Friends,” one of the most popular songs off their new album of the same name, kicking the crowd into even higher gear once the drums kicked in. Everyone sang along with maniacal and wicked lyrics, “And it’s not that I’m evil/ I got a friend in the Devil,” and “before you were born I was already sinning.” The stage stayed dark during the song aside from while lights flashing around the House of Blues, like searchlights looking for the devil. The searchlights got a little help from the next song that Portugal segued into, “Dayman,” from FX’s comedy series It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The fans of the show were easy to spot as their faces lit up while singing, “Dayman, fighter of the Nightman/ Champion of the sun/ You’re a master of karate and friendship for everyone.” For those who weren’t familiar with the song, the goofy lyrics may have been hidden by the dark interpretation the band gave the song’s vibe. Without stopping, “Dayman” slowly evolved into another favorite sing-along, “So American,” which then turned into arguably their biggest song, “People Say” from The Satanic Satanist. ”People Say” then segued into another song from that album, “Guns and Dogs.”
The band finally took a break from the marathon of songs and said, to the crowd’s approval, that that song was written in Boston. The break didn’t last long, though. “Atomic Man” from Evil Friends was next, with a chemical swirl projected onto the mountain range that looked like the album cover of The Satanic Satanist melting down the slopes. “Atomic Man” had the crowd chanting in unison like at a sports stadium. Portugal. The Man continued their Boston love following this by yelling, “We f****ng love Boston! Recorded two albums here.“ “The Sun” and “Senseless” were next, followed by another new one, “Sea of Air,” the softest song the band played that evening. During “Modern Jesus,” also off Evil Friends, the mountains were lit up by images of actual snow-covered mountains and beautiful glaciers, bringing us to their home state.
“Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)” turned into a cover of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” but only for long enough for everyone to shout the chorus a couple times. No one was disappointed when this was followed by a cover of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” though. A beautiful mix of red and blue lights sat on the band as they ripped through a nasty guitar solo. It brought me back to riding in my Dad’s old beat up car on the way to the city’s house of pizza as a kid. New song “Creep In a T-shirt” was next, which gave everyone a chance to sing the chorus to “Evil Friends” again since it’s included toward the end of the song. They stuck with Evil Friends and played “Someday Believers” next, then another sing-along with In The Mountain In The Cloud’s “Sleep Forever,” which was complimented by blue sky and white clouds projected onto the mountains. “Sleep Forever” segued into “Plastic Soldiers,” which ended with everyone singing “Hey Jude,” a classic Portugal. The Man move. Lead man John Gourley tricked the crowd by continuing to sing “Hey Jude” over the riff from “People Say.” They finished the set with a particularly sonically delightful jam off of “Hey Jude,” which was very different but just as good as the heavy and sludgey way the show started.
After an encore break, Portugal returned to the stage with another Boston shoutout and bassist Zachary Carothers saying “Most times I go on stage completely sober, but leave not sober at all. I’d say this qualifies.” This probably only helped their third Beatles cover of the night, “Helter Skelter.” In a previous interview with WERS, drummer Kane Ritchotte explained Portugal’s inclination to cover songs: “the thing that seems to be universal amongst us is to not be ashamed of those who influence us because the classic stuff works for everyone, for a reason.” This sentiment was completely actualized and realized through all of the great covers that night. And then it sounded like we were abducted by aliens that love drum solos, which turned out to be another transition to, again, “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” What was so good the first time only got better.