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Concert Photography, Concert Reviews, Music

Concert Review: Portugal. The Man, SKATERS @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre

By: Adam Harrison (@AdamRHarrison) –

John Gourley of Portugal. The Man. (Photo: Adam Harrison/Aesthetic Magazine Toronto)

John Gourley of Portugal. The Man. (Photo: Adam Harrison/Aesthetic Magazine Toronto)

On Wednesday night, Portugal. The Man took their fans in Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre to a mountain in a cloud. Whether through their sweet sounds of retro psychedelic rock fused with modern indie influence, or the big, white, mountain backdrop on the stage, or simply by the aroma of certain ‘substances’ in the air, they took everyone to that place atop the mountain with the Portland by way of Alaska five-piece.

New York-based punk trio SKATERS opened the evening. The five anarchists burst onto the stage wearing matching grey trench coats and thunderously plundered through their 20-minute set of ear-piercing punk rock, despite there being at least one confused moment where one guitar became unplugged and singer, Michael Ian Cummings, halted mid-song while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” blurted out over the sound system which puzzled the already bewildered audience.  SKATERS likely drank more than they played music, cracking open new cans of beer before even finishing the previous ones. They left their very little stage space an absolute mess, knocking over microphones stands and cables and spilling beer all over everything.

Portugal. The Man began their 100-minute set with “How the Leopard Got Its Spots”, dating back to their debut album,Waiter: “You Vultures!” before diving into new material from their latest album, Evil Friends, including“Purple Yellow Red and Blue”, which was the first of many new tunes we heard.

Evil Friends has been received well among fans and it lives up to 2009’s The Satanic Satanist and 2011’s In the Mountain in the Cloud, two of their strongest albums. This is Portugal. The Man’s seventh album in as many years. Over that time, they’ve accrued a very loyal fan base. Despite having a miniature reputation in Toronto, fans sang along to nearly every song, even the new ones, which they released just a week ago. Songs such as “Evil Friends,” “Atomic Man,” “Modern Jesus” and “Hip Hop Kids” went over just as well as some of the older favourites.

With frontman John Baldwin Gourley, whose vocals hit such a high key, dogs were likely barking outside the venue, and the energetic, head-waggin’, body twistin’, foot stompin’ bassist, Zachary Carothers, who we recently interviewed, Portugal. The Man’s deep sound also came from extended percussion instruments, keyboards and synthesizers from Kyle O’Quin, Noah Gersh and Kane Ritchotte, respectively, that added to the progressiveness of their anthems. On this night, the band was also joined on stage by Gourley’s girlfriend Zoe Manville, who supported him on vocals.

Throughout their set, it wasn’t unusual for the quintet to extend their songs into rhythmic jams and blending some of their songs seamlessly into one another, including during their performance of the In the Mountain in the Cloud single “So American” which flowed perfectly into “People Say,” a single off The Satanic Satanist, and during the set closing and spine-tingling hymn “Sleep Forever” which fused into an epic, jam-heavy cover of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”

In addition to performing original material, Portugal. The Man also slipped snippets of covers into many of their jams. The most surprising being a cover of “The Dayman” from the third season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which went over the crowd’s head, possibly because they made it sound like a legitimate song.

After a solid main set of back-to-back sing-a-longs, the encore featured catalogued tunes from their early days, quieting the crowd, while they likely expected some more hits from In the Mountain in the Cloud such as “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now).” Nevertheless the show ended on a high note with another Beatles tribute in the form of mellowed-out progressing to full on rock ’n’ roll session of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”

Portugal. The Man is a remarkably talented band with a unique sound and an array of catchy tunes. If you haven’t checked out Evil Friends yet, listen to a track below.




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