September 25, 2009
The Troubadour, LA
John Baldwin Gourley, Jason Sechrist, Ryan Neighbors, and Zachary Scott Carothers – they call themselves Portugal. The Man but they may want to consider calling themselves Portugal. The Man!!!
Now I know what everybody’s been talking about. . .
Well, let me clarify – not everybody is talking yet. The show was sold-out, not a celebrity (that I’m aware of) in sight. The Troubadour was packed with actual die-hard, screaming, chanting, singing, moshing, fans. Give it time – this band is sure to become a Hollywood favorite, and before you know it Drew Barrymore will be rocking right alongside you.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Drew – she actually likes music and enjoys the shows. It’s the “celebrities” that arrive 37 minutes late and then give you dirty looks because they can’t hear their cell phone conversation over your cheering. . . let’s not tell them about Portugal. The Man, ok? Because they will want to be there. Everybody is going to want to be there when they find out what they’ve been missing. The show was epic and it’s only a matter of time until the masses find out, but for now, Portugal. The Man is the best-kept secret around.
They’re not a secret to everyone. Once you get inside you realize you’re being introduced to something that others have known about for some time. People greet you with looks that communicate: “Oh good. You finally made it.” and “Get ready. You’re in for something. . .” and “Where have you been?! You must be an idiot for not knowing about these guys sooner, but I’m glad you’re here now.” And rightfully so. . .
There’s something that overtakes you the moment these guys hit the stage. You become part of this Portugal. The Man experience. You can’t stop moving, dancing, clapping, screaming. And we’re talking about LA – a city I love, but one whose residents (myself included) are so spoiled by the access they have to great entertainment that often times they just stand (or worse yet, sit) at a show, never more than a nod of a head and a polite clap. I’ve seen it happen to some of the biggest and best bands in the world. Well, that’s not happening to Portugal. The Man.
Gourley plays guitar masterfully and sings with considerable range and uncompromised passion. So you’re tempted to just want to stand there and watch him, but you can’t ignore the bass line Carothers throws down and you can’t believe he can play bass while practically doing a full back-bend. Then Neighbors takes a break from the keys and brings
further force to the music, with additional percussion. All the while Sechrist grounds the songs and the experience as he takes command of the drums. The lights are synced to the beat of the music (which is important to note if you have any hope of capturing a decent photograph of the band while they’re playing) and the crowd can’t contain themselves. Needless to say, if you wanted to just stand there and watch, there would be plenty to hold your attention. But I don’t think it’s possible to stand still at a Portugal. The Man show, and I can’t imagine that you’d want to.
If you’ve heard their music and you haven’t seen them live, go see them. Travel to another city if you need to. If you haven’t heard their music, it doesn’t matter – go see Portugal. The Man – you won’t regret it. Here are their tour dates – you have no excuse.
Some people will describe a show as a “religious experience”. I’ve been to a lot of mind-blowing, extraordinary shows, but I’ve yet to describe one as “religious.” Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t raised with much religion and those who were don’t speak very highly of it. . . But assuming a “religious experience” is a good thing, that it’s transformative, that it overtakes you, that you forget where you are, that you forget who you are, that for a moment nothing else matters – well, then seeing Portugal. The Man live is a religious experience.