Concerts Concerts Portugal. The Man Lays It On Heavy

Portugal. The Man Lays It On Heavy

Portugal. The Man at Lee's Palace
Portugal. The Man
Telekinesis, Unknown Mortal Orchestra
The Mod Club in Toronto, ON
May 27, 2011

Review by: Chad Hutchings
Photos by: Julie Lavelle

This past week, the Portland psych-rock group brought some extra weight to their Toronto show.

Portugal. The Man

If you haven't spent the past week with Portugal. The Man swirling around in your head, then you definitely were not at their Friday performance at Lee's Palace. Then again, if you were lucky enough to be in the sold-out crowd, you're now probably too busy following them on tour to even be reading this in the first place.

Luckily, If you couldn't get the scratch together for the road trip, there's some consolation to come: Sticky Magazine caught up with the band one-on-one during their most recent visit to the city, and you'll have the chance to read all about it in the days to come. For now, though, let's take a little look at the show that blindsided our team.

Before the show, I'd heard that the group likes to pull out new moves when they take the stage. This turned out to be massively understated. Of course, since Portugal. The Man has spent more than half a decade producing such outstanding music as they have, it would lend to the idea that they bring considerable talent to the stage. What wasn't expected, though, was the way that seeing them live is more a rebirth of their catalogue than a revisit.

On this night, each tune took on a hardened face, with an absorbing, darkened sound that flowed smoothly from piece to piece. This was a night when psych-pop flirted with hard rock (and even engaged in some heavy petting), with the whole experience becoming larger than life as wild strobes and lazer lights pulsed and stabbed through the otherwise blackened and fog-filled stage (a scene that was striking to the audience, but admittedly hairy for our photographer).

And yet, despite the heavy sound they brought to the stage, Portugal. The Man retained that spirit that their fans eat up, and every track was as stunning as their recorded counterparts. "Bellies Are Full", for one, wasn't only flooring because of its live intensity, but because this intensity showed a whole new side of a song that stunned the room of fans long before they ever bought their tickets. And these fans, for their part, showed just how glad they were to fill the room wall to wall — a fact well-proven when the live performance of "The Sun" had the room quaking as the audience sang from start to finish, loudly enough to drown even the heaviest instrumentals in its performance. Portugal. The Man is one of those unassuming bands that can really surprise with just how strong a fan base they've formed. And, if you weren't at their recent Toronto visit, you lost out on total validation as to why they have such a devoted following.  

You missed one hell of a show.

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Telekinesis

Stepping on-stage before Portugal. The Man, Telekinesis spent their entire set doing justice to the life and charm that the power-pop group offers up in their studio work. While their style wasn't quite in line with what was put on the table by the other acts of the night, the house was teeming with their fans, and the performance left none of them disappointed. Favourites like "Car Crash" had the audience dancing unabashedly, ping-ponging an excitement back to the stage that culminated in frontman Michael Benjamin Lerner standing on his drum-kit to accept roaring applause. Highlighted by rousing performances of tracks like "50 Ways" and the multiple contributions of Portugal. The Man's Ryan Neighbors on keyboard, Telekinesis' set brought a wild excitement to the show, in perfect supporting act form.

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra

First up at Lee's on Friday was Unknown Mortal Orchestra, an act well slotted to open the night with their fuzzy, psychadelic stylings. The three-piece played tracks that were heavy and ethereal, with the greatest talent shining through with lead singer Ruban Nielson’s mind-bending skills on guitar. While their discography is still very light, their short set forecasted great things to come.

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