Portugal show gets psychedelic

By by Justin Jacobs

Portugal. The Man is not the band it once was. In fact, it’s not a band that’s ever been, or… Portugal. The Man is not the band it once was. In fact, it’s not a band that’s ever been, or likely ever will be again. And with a performance Thursday night at Cleveland’s Grog Shop that evoked both the fury and punch of art-punk and the what-just-happened experimentation of late ’60s psychedelia, the band seems intent on ensuring that it’s music treads the line of familiarity and strangeness with every beat. That said, Portugal. The Man isn’t made up of the catchy indie-synth rockers of their debut Waiter: You Vultures! The band’s latest album, Censored Colors, employs a distinctly more experimental sound ‘- gone are any semblance of verse-chorus-verse structure, replaced by washes of often wildly varying sounds (saxophones, organs, female harmonies) hitting the crowd in waves. The songs last night blended together excellently, and band-leader John Gourley — shy as he is –‘ commanded each with his hypnotic, gorgeous falsetto. Straying from the more boxed-in sound of their debut, the band’s adapted its earlier songs to match this new musical attitude ‘mdash; ‘How the Leopard Got Its Spots’ from Waiter morphed into a soulful psych-out, and ‘Chicago’ turned into a full-on experi-punk assault. Matching both the title and lyrical theme of ‘colors,’ the band was oft bathed in flashing blue, yellow and red lights throughout the set, making for a performance that was nearly as visually stimulating as it was aurally. The band struggled to capture the lush, atmospheric and folky tones of the newest album, instead favoring an acid-dazed, pulsating sound from the set’s first note of the hard rocking ‘Church Mouth’ and on through the almost two-hour performance. This isn’t exactly a formula for mainstream success, but that seems far from what Portugal. The Man wants. But with highly experimental, genre-bending, intense and beautiful performances like this, who can blame them?