Portugal. The Man brought their Woodstock World Tour to a sold-out crowd at The Louisville Palace on Saturday, February 17, showcasing their music at it’s most experimental and riding their recent wave of well-deserved recognition.
After 14 years, 9 albums and incessant touring, Portugal. The Man are hot off their first Grammy win for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. If you’ve turned on a radio in the last six months you’ve inevitably heard their hit single, the poppy, uptempo “Feel It Still,” however, the band’s live shows are a colorful mix of psychedelic indie rock with a nod to their rock and roll roots – anything but a radio-play pop showcase.
As the house lights went down, The Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” began playing over the speakers. I caught a few couples embrace and slow dance as the crowd got to it’s feet. The music did a 180 when the band opened up with a heavy cover of Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2”. Knowing every word to the classic song, the crowd roared in unison, “Teacher! Leave them kids alone!”
Wasting no time, the band kicked out original songs from their most-recent releases, Woodstock and Evil Friends including “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” “Number One” “Atomic Man” and “Modern Jesus” before digging further into their deep catalog. But these weren’t simple album-version recreations of the tunes. The band teased unique, experimental variations of their songs, breathing new life to songs we’ve seen them play live for years.
As the show progressed, the band pulled sparingly from In the Mountain, On the Cloud, playing “All Your Light (Times Like These)” and “So American” before getting back to newer songs like “Noise Pollution” “Live in the Moment” and, of course a funky version of “Feel It Still.”
The stage production on this tour is most elaborate that Portugal has ever offered. Vibrant, swirling psychedelic liquid light projections traded off with distorted human shapes as lasers and strobe lights illuminated the crowd as much of the band stayed shrouded in darkness, stepping in front of the projectors only a handful of times, creating a larger-than-life silhouette of the rockers.
Right before the set began a message displayed across the stage stating:
This helped with the overall fluidity of the show. Little banter allowed for fewer breaks between songs, providing the perfect canvas for the band to create unique, jammy segues between. Also, for a band that has anti-war messaging strewn throughout their catalog, and with the current political climate, the “no stage banter” message came as a surprise. However, it became clear that the band had other ways of getting their message across.
At one point in the show, the messaging read “Y’all like… Discussing politics at family gatherings? That’s fucking cool!” Portugal, as political as they are, weren’t there to preach, but to plant the seed so you can discuss issues that are important to you with family and friends.
A set highlight occurred when members of Kentucky-native, Grammy-winning Cage the Elephant stormed the stage. Danny Tichenor (Bassist, Cage the Elephant) joined the band for a couple of songs, followed by Brad Shultz (Guitarist, Cage the Elephant) offering a few shots of Kentucky bourbon to the band. Nothing wrong with a little bourbon break and hugs from old touring mates.
With the set coming to a close, the band ended with a heartfelt version of “Sleep Forever” as the background video took us on a snowy, digitized fly-over of John Gourley’s (Lead Guitar/Vocals) home state of Alaska before leading the crowd in a singalong version of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” When the band returned for the encore, they played “Hip Hop Kids” and “Holy Roller (Hallelujah),” two stand out tracks from 2013’s Evil Friends.
It would be easy for Portugal. The Man to take a break after their non-stop touring and recent commercial success. But the band is showing no signs of slowing down, adding a slew of shows to their already full schedule and teasing new and reworked music via their social media channels, as well as the experimental show we witnessed at The Palace. Be on the lookout for the psychedelic rockers as they make their way across the world!
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica Cover)
Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2 (Pink Floyd Cover)
Purple Yellow Red and Blue
Live in the Moment
Feel It Still
All Your Light (Times Like These)
Sea of Air
Sleep Forever > Hey Jude (Beatles Cover)
Hip Hop Kids
Holy Roller (Hallelujah)