Monday, March 1, 2010

Portugal. The Man - February 27th, 2010

Opening bands are supposed to warm up the crowd in anticipation of the main act, but too often it feels like sonic appetizers were picked by a blindfolded ape throwing darts at a wall. It is rare that a three-band lineup flows as well as The Dig, Port O'Brien, and Portugal. The Man did on Friday night at Lincoln Hall.

Unheralded, though not for long, New York quartet, The Dig was first up with a powerful half-hour set that sufficiently lathered up the sold-out crowd. As is the case with most opening bands lacking an official release, they took the stage with the majority of the crowd in the bar area rather than inside the concert hall. The heavy thump of the beat and fluttering guitars quickly charmed anyone within earshot, steadily filling the venue as the set went on. With a unique sound that feels a bit like, fellow NY indie, White Rabbits mixed with a hint of Sam Roberts' glistening classic rock, The Dig will not remain unknowns for long. Keep an eye out for their debut, Electric Toys, set for release April 27th.

Port O'Brien's acoustic folk might seem a strange fit for bill, and following a strong set from The Dig they had something to prove. As Nate correctly predicted on our podcast a few weeks back, Port O'Brien cranked up the rock aspect of their sound to fit more in line with Portugal. The Man; with truly stunning results. The wonderfully sloppy harmonies were all but gone, save the final song of the set, as were the twangy soundscape of mostly acoustic guitar and banjo-fuelled songs. Part of the change may have been forced by the absence of Cambria Goodwin, unable to head out for this tour. Instead, the quartet ratcheted up the electric guitars and rocked out for a sound more akin to hard-charging Tom Petty. The more aggressive sound brought out the best in the band, with a more focussed set than we had previously seen them deliver playing in front of Sea Wolf. Without Goodwin's waifish vocals on-stage, front man Van Pierszalowski sounded more powerful on songs like the sturdier "My Will Is Good". The killer set from the suddenly-polished band ended with crowd-participation of "I Woke Up Today", where the band taught the swelling crowd the wordless hook before handing out pots and pans from an on-stage box for added percussion.

Alaska's Portugal. The Man hit the stage and unleashed a whole show's worth of gritty, blues-drenched guitar within just the first song, "And I". Stadium-ready rocker, "People Say" had front man John Baldwin Gourley belting out the soulful song with hat pulled low beneath a hoodie drawn tight. The seeming lack of on-stage confidence had no effect on the performance, with Gourley's uniquely high-pitched vocals delivering the goods as he bopped to the beat, nimbly working the guitar. There were a handful of delicious, grittier goodies from the soon-to-be-released American Ghetto, but the stars of the night were from, last year's brilliant blend of soul and classic rock, Satanic Satanist. Stomping psychedelic rocker "The Home", the sweet hooked "Do You", and the blues-enriched pop of "Guns And Dogs" shined as examples of why the band continues to play larger venues each time they return to Chicago. The blistering hour and twenty minute set proved Portugal. The Man to be the kind of band you quit your job and follow on tour.

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