Given the usual Texas humidity and the heat index, Stubb’s Barbeque may have not expected such a full house. Yet, with the band’s new lead single “Feel It Still” topping iTunes charts and garnering Grammy buzz as their biggest hit to date, the sold-out Austin audience thirsty for moxie-driven alternative rock was no surprise.
Story by Henry Youtt
Portugal. The Man doesn’t mess around. Opening up with explosive covers of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” the five-person band stuck out their chests from the start, tearing up bold classics clearly influential on the band’s ever-developing sound. From the moment they stepped on stage, frontmen John Gourley and Zachary Carothers’ gutsy grit and devilish charm commanded the attention of the outdoor venue.
A message lit up on their set visual, reading, “Sorry! We’re bad at stage banter. We’re Portugal. The Man! Just making sure you’re at the right concert.” Stay any longer and that would’ve been hard to miss, as the simple but captivating drumbeat to their chart-topping new track broke the silence and every pair of sneakers started moving.
With the band’s latest album, “Woodstock,” these “rebels just for kicks” brought along more swagger and more nerve, conjuring a stronger yet slicker sound from the rock ‘n’ roll of late last century that was reworked, reshaped and renewed with a tone true to their comically countless past albums. Performances of songs from the 2017 album “Number One” and “Noise Pollution” ushered in that amped-up new mood with other songs such as “Live in the Moment” and “Rich Friends,” assuring veteran fans that the old Portugal. The Man was not dead yet.
Rehashing old hits made a backup vocalist out of every audience member, as they belted lyrics littered with spunk, spirit and nostalgia. As the band played “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” and “Modern Jesus” from their 2013 album,“Evil Friends,” the crowd became fluid, flowing and jumping as one body. A visual reflection of the band’s anthropomorphic animations danced and shook on the screen behind them as colorfully abstract patterns fluttered alongside a bright psychedelic light show. Such punk pageantry made the performance of fan favorite “Waves,” irresistibly intimate and viciously passionate, all the more magical.
As the night turned toward a close, the modern American rockstars finished where they started, covering an Oasis song, “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” punctuated with improvised solos and playful guitar riffs.
“I liked Portugal. The Man before they sold out,” the band’s new merchandise shirt reads. Cocky? Sure. But when has that ever stopped a rockstar?