Portugal. The Man rocks the Palace Theatre
February 14, 2018
Before they took to the stage last Friday, Portugal. The Man set the expectations for the rest of the night. A message appeared on the screen behind the stage reading, “We are not very good at stage banter, so tonight’s performance will feature some slogans written by our management. Thank you for your continued understanding.” It wasn’t the last cynical message to appear, but it was an accurate forecast. They didn’t spend much time talking to the crowd, allowing them to move seamlessly through their spectacular set list.
With their latest album, Portugal. The Man dialed down the aggression compared to their previous works and received their first taste of top 40’s success. However, anyone in the sold-out Palace Theatre who was expecting a night of gentle, sing-along pop music was in for a surprise.
The band opened with an astonishingly authentic cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and followed it up with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2).” Having earned the crowd’s attention, they finally started playing their own music.
Beginning with their 2013 classic, “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” they delivered hit after hit. “Atomic Man” was up next, followed by “Modern Jesus.” The band didn’t embellish much on any of their songs, but they played them loud. The raw, hard hitting rock vibe even made it into their new stuff.
“Feel it Still,” arguably the most popular song on the set list, took full advantage of the distorted electric guitar, making for a much heavier version of the original track. It may seem bold to not save their most successful song for later, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Even if they didn’t recognize every song, they liked what they heard.
The pace finally dialed down a few notches when they played “So Young,” giving lead singer John Gourley a chance to truly showcase his powerful range. As the set reached its final stretch, the tone picked back up. The Beatles-esque chorus in “So American” gave the crowd a chance to sway along to lilting vocals while not sacrificing anything in the way of volume.
They closed with two of their most heavy hitting songs of all. Longtime fans cheered in enthusiastic anticipation during the opening chords of “Hip Hop Kids,” and the whole crowd was cheering for more at the end of “Holly Rollers (Hallelujah).”
When Portugal. The Man left the stage for the first time, there was no tension over whether they’d be back. A message reading, “Please Stand By” filled the screen.
Bassist Zach Carothers was the first to return, taking a minute to voice his appreciation. He let the audience know how excited they were to be in the Twin Cities and the Palace Theatre in particular, which he described as, “a perfect mix of new and old.” As he was saying this, the screen behind him read, “he said the same thing yesterday.” They evidently couldn’t pass up the chance at one more joke.
Although Carothers only promised one more song, what the band delivered was a beautiful mashup of “Sleep Forever,” “Smile” and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” It was the perfect way to ease the crowd out of the energetic show that preceded. Even if Portugal. The Man’s top 40’s hits were what lured in a large portion of the crowd, it didn’t take them long to win them over to their old sound. A week may have passed already, but after that show, the Palace Theatre is no doubt feeling it still.
Bennett Ryynanen is a student at UW-River Falls.