It’s not easy for a band name to stand out these days, but Portland via Alaska group Portugal.The Man may be the most awkwardly named band in town; yes, that period is intentional. They have a proclivity for ridiculous or pointless titles; their new album is called The Satanic Satanist, which recalls Of Montreal’s equally goofy Satanic Panic in the Attic, other albums include It’s Complicated Being a Wizard and Waiter: “You Vultures!” and some song titles include “Lovers in Love” and “Horse Warming Party.” Clearly, they’re not worried about coming across as a little silly. After a somewhat tumultuous European tour, which involved a fan going missing and stolen equipment, they returned to Portland for a two-night stand at the Doug Fir.


Opening quintet World’s Greatest Ghosts released their debut album, No Magic, in the fall. The band is a family affair. The singer/keyboardist introduced the group as such: “This is my brother, my wife, my best friend and my other best friend.” And there was a communal coziness to their playing. They had two qualities which are not always valued in Portland bands: high energy playing and a love of pop melodies. At times they came across like a sweeter, more garage-y Cars. As a young band, they can’t be faulted for lack of originality or innovation and their enthusiastic, buoyant performance made up for this. The fizzy energy and new wave keyboards of songs like “Put Yr Boots On!” were perfect for a Friday night.

Portugal emerged onto a stage decorated with the kind of trippy, psychedelic paintings that you might have found in some 1970s teen’s basement, along with a black light, bong and some Yes LPs. They really needed a smoke machine. The quartet draw from psych and prog, two once unfashionable genres that made a surprising resurgence in indie circles over the past decade, especially in Portland, where favorite sons and daughters the Decemberists write dense, literary (and interminable) rock operas. The songs on Portugal’s newest album were more polished and pop oriented, revealing the influence of ’67 Beatles, but in concert, songs were often a jumping off point for jamming. They opened up the shorter songs and pushed them into weird, druggy dimension. A stoned psych-groove was immediately settled into, fleshed out by space-y keys and high, disco-soul vocals. Appropriately enough, minutes into their first song, I caught a whiff of pot smoke. Completely the hazy ’70s vibe were the bassist and guitarist’s porn ‘staches.


The band, who have toured heavily, have obviously played together for a while and despite their more out there tendencies, they were tight and seemed to intuitively understand where they wanted the jams to go. Yet they are capable of more focused, hummable songs, like “Everyone is Golden” and “People Say.” Somewhat frustratingly, they launched into covers of two classics, Harry Nilsson/Three Dog Night’s “One” and Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” but didn’t complete either, rather segueing into their own songs. The songwriting of the former and the alien glam riffs of the latter did bring out the shortcomings of their own songs, which may be as spacey as Ziggy Stardust, but don’t back the same punch. They may have drifted into space-rock territory and set their controls for the heart of the sun, but they never quite got there. Regardless, the packed house ate it up, even when some of the woolly jams got bogged down. But as someone who finds most jams tedious and self-indulgent, I’m not the person to judge. The co-vocalists sang the majority of songs in a falsetto, which became grating after a while. It has been a good few years for dudes singing in high voices (MGMT, Passion Pit, even Bon Iver) and at their best Portugal sound like Prince wandering into an early Pink Floyd song. At their worst they sound like the Bee Gees on some bad mushrooms. Occasionally, I was reminded of Flight of the Conchords. But, hey, they’re Portugal. The Man. They seemed genuinely pleased to be there and were gracious to the enthusiastic crowd, retuning for a two-song encore, which included one that sounded a lot like T. Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer,” but then went down the jam-tastic rabbit hole, from which they and the audience seem content to dwell. We’ll leave it at that.

(Photos: Mathias Ailstock and Genevieve Lui)

  • Top 25 Songs of 2013

    25. Janelle Monáe – “Dance Apocalyptic” [Bad Boy/Wondaland] On her stellar sophomore album…
  • Concert Review: Portugal. The Man

    (Photo: Erika Reinsel) Portugal. The Man fittingly concluded their domestic Evil Friends t…
  • Portugal. The Man:Evil Friends

    [xrr rating=4.0/5]It’s all about trust. Portugal. The Man spent years developing their ico…
  • Concert Review: Tool

    Thousands of concertgoers were unwittingly taking part in the last arena performance any o…
  • Concert Review: Refused

    The world still needs bands like Refused. Here’s hoping their next Portland show isn’t pre…
  • Concert Review: The Mountain Goats

    The act of playing three nights to sold-out crowds as a solo artist can be incredibly daun…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Sasquatch 2013: 2 Fast, 2 Furious, 2 Much

Dear Sasquatch, We’ve had some good times together, but I think we’ve grown apart and I ne…