Portugal. The Man continue to push boundaries at loud, psychedelic, experimental Brooklyn Steel show

Portugal. The Man, the rock band that you’ve seen just about everywhere over the past few months, are pushing hard to make it be known that they’re not just another rock band. If “Feel It Still” didn’t do enough to cement them as a crossover act when it became on of this summer’s biggest pop hits, their live show is certainly going to persuade you.

Following an opening set by New Jersey native Topaz Jones (more on that in a minute), the band took the stage after letting the full duration of the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” play out. The quintet is charmingly weird, and their live show has always relied on their psych-rock beginnings. A large projection screen alternates between written out phrases (“We are not very good at stage banter, so tonight’s performance will feature some slogans written by our management”), rainbow colored lasers and Ex-Machina-esque female imagery.

Like they’ve done for a while, Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall” open the show followed by an explosive rendition of “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” This show, my fourth Portugal. The Man show, also featured two dancers, b-boys who also pulled from contemporary dance. A few days ago, on “Colbert,” the band performed with an elementary school chorus and youth drumline.

Portugal. The Man is political in nature. They’re a diverse group, one of the few major rock bands with a disabled member (guitarist Eric Howk had an accident 10 years ago that made him paraplegic) and frontman John Gourley has said the band’s goal is “to comment on societal and political unease.” On stage though, by limiting their stage banter and, exploratory can sometimes feel exploitative due to a lack of context.

The set itself also pushes this progressive mindset, both musically and conceptually. “Feel It Still” is a song about raising a daughter in the 21st Century that also references the Beastie Boys, another classic crossover act. “Live In The Moment” references lynching (“When your family swinging from the branches of a tree / God only knows we don’t need ghost stories”) and “Modern Jesus” is about as on-the-nose of a take on religion as you’ll find in a song. The 90 minute set concluded with solo-heavy renditions of “Hip Hop Kids” and “Holy Roller.”

The band’s long history is often forgotten as they become a household name. It’s why Portugal. The Man took such offense (rightfully) to a Rolling Stone article that criticized their “defection from Computerworld.” The band’s “No computers up here” graphic only makes sense if you realize it’s a pride on playing the American Music Award’s without backing tracks (and if you realize a computer is different than a synth). At Tuesday’s show, Topaz Jones might have seemed like an odd opener if I didn’t know they have been playing with atypical openers for a while, like Amine in Houston last year or Brazilian band Boogarins. Still, something about the b-boys felt off.

It is much easier for something to feel like exploitation than elevation, and it is often context that helps push something to the correct category. Portugal. The Man does not need to stand on stage and explain why they make decisions they do, but at a certain point the lines may start to get too far apart to be read between.

Brian Benton
Brian is the founder and editor of Respect Your Youngers. He currently lives in New York City, and previously lived in St. Louis and San Francisco. He enjoys public transportation and coffee, and can be found online at brianfbenton.com

Portugal. The Man continue to push boundaries at loud, psychedelic, experimental Brooklyn Steel show

Portugal. The Man, the rock band that you’ve seen just about everywhere over the past few months, are pushing hard to make it be known that they’re not just another rock band. If “Feel It Still” didn’t do enough to cement them as a crossover act when it became on of this summer’s biggest pop hits, their live show is certainly going to persuade you.

Following an opening set by New Jersey native Topaz Jones (more on that in a minute), the band took the stage after letting the full duration of the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” play out. The quintet is charmingly weird, and their live show has always relied on their psych-rock beginnings. A large projection screen alternates between written out phrases (“We are not very good at stage banter, so tonight’s performance will feature some slogans written by our management”), rainbow colored lasers and Ex-Machina-esque female imagery.

Like they’ve done for a while, Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall” open the show followed by an explosive rendition of “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” This show, my fourth Portugal. The Man show, also featured two dancers, b-boys who also pulled from contemporary dance. A few days ago, on “Colbert,” the band performed with an elementary school chorus and youth drumline.

Portugal. The Man is political in nature. They’re a diverse group, one of the few major rock bands with a disabled member (guitarist Eric Howk had an accident 10 years ago that made him paraplegic) and frontman John Gourley has said the band’s goal is “to comment on societal and political unease.” On stage though, by limiting their stage banter and, exploratory can sometimes feel exploitative due to a lack of context.

The set itself also pushes this progressive mindset, both musically and conceptually. “Feel It Still” is a song about raising a daughter in the 21st Century that also references the Beastie Boys, another classic crossover act. “Live In The Moment” references lynching (“When your family swinging from the branches of a tree / God only knows we don’t need ghost stories”) and “Modern Jesus” is about as on-the-nose of a take on religion as you’ll find in a song. The 90 minute set concluded with solo-heavy renditions of “Hip Hop Kids” and “Holy Roller.”

The band’s long history is often forgotten as they become a household name. It’s why Portugal. The Man took such offense (rightfully) to a Rolling Stone article that criticized their “defection from Computerworld.” The band’s “No computers up here” graphic only makes sense if you realize it’s a pride on playing the American Music Award’s without backing tracks (and if you realize a computer is different than a synth). At Tuesday’s show, Topaz Jones might have seemed like an odd opener if I didn’t know they have been playing with atypical openers for a while, like Amine in Houston last year or Brazilian band Boogarins. Still, something about the b-boys felt off.

It is much easier for something to feel like exploitation than elevation, and it is often context that helps push something to the correct category. Portugal. The Man does not need to stand on stage and explain why they make decisions they do, but at a certain point the lines may start to get too far apart to be read between.

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