Portugal. The Man thrill at the ‘dise

A review of Portugal. The Man at the Paradise Rock Club on October 22, 2011

, Staff Writer

Portugal. The Man (PTM) is a band that’s developed a fiercely devoted following since their debut album dropped in 2006. They’ve got a sound that is as varied as it is rich, and have played at a number of venues throughout the Boston area. The most recent being the Paradise Rock Club, where PTM hit on Saturday as they tour in support of their latest album, In the Mountain in the Cloud. What resulted was almost two hours of thoroughly enjoyable live music, complete with rich improvisation, a spectacular light show, and a few unexpected covers here and there.

The band took the stage to raucous applause – they’ve certainly developed an expansive fanbase in the past five years – and it wasn’t long before everyone was happily singing along to “So American”, which kicks off In The Mountain. Almost sci-fi-esque orbs of light hung from the ceiling, varying in size and lighting up in intricate patterns. It was a surprisingly ornate display for a relatively small venue like the Paradise, but definitely one that added a fair bit to the show.

Musically, Portugal. The Man offer a perfect combination of traditional rock and roll with a touch of psychedelic and a willingness to improvise. It’s hard not to get pulled in when they’re on stage – singer John Baldwin’s range will surprise you, and he delivers lyrics with an incredible amount of projection, hitting the back wall without any problems. The rest of the band follow him in kind, with driving percussion provided by Jason Sechrist and rich keyboard work from Ryan Neighbors. Zachary Carothers’ bass playing provides a solid harmonic foundation on which the rest of the band can easily build from.

A few songs in, the band gave the crowd the first surprise of the evening with a ridiculously heavy cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”. If there’s a case to be made about this song being the grandfather of heavy metal, PTM would be its biggest proponents. The guitar was simply massive, and Sechrist played his heart out, giving those poor cymbals a serious beating. It was a sight to behold, and definitely got the audience in the proper frame of mind. Fans were singing and dancing throughout the entire evening, completely willing to follow PTM wherever they wanted to go.

After going through a few other tunes, the band dropped into “Head Is A Flame (Cool With It)”, also off of the new album. They ran through the song and jammed out on it for a little while before launching right into “All The Young Dudes”, turning the Paradise into a massive, swaying singalong. From there, they started a really interesting bit of psychedelic jamming. What would eventually become “Elephants” began as a quiet, ambient bit of improv that slowly built itself up to the song.

It’s always refreshing to see a band that’s willing to open up their songs and see where they go. Many live shows are simply rehashes of what you hear on the album, and while a precise execution of this can be splendid, there’s a certain thrill of the unexpected that makes PTM’s shows so endearing. And so, the set continued on, covering the band’s catalogue, though primarily focusing on the newer material. They closed out with “Sleep Forever”, which also ends In The Mountain, a triumphant ballad with an infectious guitar line.

Returning to the stage, Portugal. The Man regaled the crowd with a lengthy encore that included older material like “People Say” and “Guns and Dogs”. Of course, just to make sure everyone had one more thing to talk about as they left the venue, they provided a stunning cover of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back In Anger”. You can bet that everyone knew the words to that one, and it was a great little surprise to end the night on.

Portugal. The Man are definitely a band worth seeing live at least once. They’ve come a long way since playing Harpers Ferry a few years ago, and are now selling out places like the Paradise. With such a devoted set of fans, it wouldn’t be surprising to see plenty more of them in the future.

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