This review is late coming because life gets in the way, but last week I saw Portugal. The Man, at the O2 Kentish Town on the 24th July.
I was joined in this little misadventure, but my niece Summer who just celebrated her 13th birthday, and this was her present from me, because I knew she loved the band, and I and wanted a partner in crime.
I have loved PTM for years but didn’t get her into it. I found out she was a fan when we were in a restaurant, and “Feel it Still” came on over the airways, and we both started to sing it.
This sadly meant I had to be a responsible adult, and couldn’t go on the floor, which I hoped to do, and since seats were non-allocation, I was determined to get there early and get good ones. Your first rock gig, I wanted it to be special for her.
Incidentally, Summer doesn’t appear in any of these pictures, due to her parent’s refusal to let her appear in any type of media which does include her aunt’s own blog!
My Londoner niece is being brought up in Hemal Hempstead, so while I see London as just a place where I live, she’s a bit more of a tourist about it. I was taking her to Camden for the first time, yes, I showed her all the proper places, like the Markets, and Camden Lock, just to see the artisans, diversity and street food. She loved it, great place to go. Before we headed down to Kentish Town.
Now I’m a dork, self-admitting all the way dork. But it is telling that we got there early to miss rush hour and get good seats, but we wound up being first in the queue.
Due to my somewhat unique name, that is dorkish, bordering on cliché. I didn’t go out of my way to be first in the queue, and Summer didn’t want to go for a wander, so we just waited
But we were first in line, and it was nice, I was talking to a nice guy called Arron, it was all well and good when he pointed out that Zoe Manville, the backup singer and wife of John Gourley was standing twenty feet away.
Ok. Here’s a quagmire, so do I go up to Zoe and tell her I love her vocals on “Noise Pollution”, or do I just play it cool. I go for the latter, besides if I went up to her for an autograph, there was always the possibility of her asking me my whole name…it could happen!
My last name is the name of the band she was in, which is not common in Portugal, Brazil or the UK. She could have thought I was lying or just taking the piss! Even though I’ve explained to people more than once that my last name is not the reason I love the band, it’s just the reason I found the band!
Finally, we were in, we got the seats we wanted, front row balcony, on the aisle because of my foot, and an hour later the supporting act came on.
It was the Benin City Band, admittedly I’ve never heard of them, but they would good, a combination of rock and soul and one thing I loved was they seemed chilled about being there. They were able to get the crowd in the right mood since by this time it was “sold out” as they claimed.
Looking down on the crowd of people, I was struck by how far they’ve come since I first saw them at the Lexington several years back. Since they existed for years as hovering just below the mainstream, now they really have broken through.
And finally, Portugal. The Man was on. Opening with Beavis and Butthead, dissecting the band as only they could and full respect to Mike Judge for doing this, and once again a reminder of the genius of Beavis And Butthead.
But it takes some serious balls to drop this line “They are better than the Beatles, better than the Rolling Stones, better than Silverchair, and almost as good as Pantera” for someone with parents from Liverpool and London, that’s some fighting words right there!
It opened with a Metallica/ Pink Floyd medley intro moving effortlessly to Purple Yellow Red and Blue, and from there it was a mixture of their own songs, and a combination of classic rock.
From my vantage point, I never saw John on stage, he was forward in comparison to the rest of the band and looked like he was a dark figure on the stage.
I guess I could be a pretentious wanker and say “It could be symbolic of the idea of Portugal. The Man, being a darker aspect of John’s own personality, hence is surrounded in shadow”. Not saying I was disappointed by that, I wasn’t, it was something I noticed.
With less forces on the band, apart from Zoe since she was dead centre, and always drew the gaze, along with the brilliant visuals behind her, once again her vocals are astounding, and though she sang backup on every song, I still love “Noise Pollution” the most. It was more of a visual assault in the background, with fantastic CGI.
As bands go, they didn’t interact with the crowd, instead let the words on the screen do the talking, and I give full respect to any band who can take the piss out of themselves and their mainstream success.
The thing is, is that they were considerate enough to give us a show we would never forget, it was a CGI spectacle, but it wasn’t ostentatious, proving that they really are the same guys from Portland/Alaska.
What I loved about the most, was that they didn’t get involved with banter with the crowd, it could be to John’s stage fright, (link below discussing this) and one of the reasons he’s in total darkness for most of the evening, but they didn’t need to talk to us. We love them, we know why we’re there, that said watching “All Your Light” further on, by a guy standing in darkness, the irony wasn’t lost on me.
Since “Feel it Still” is their biggest hit, so many bands would have whored it out and played it every few songs, but these guys didn’t, it was almost unassuming. Placing it between “Number One”, and a glorious mash up of “Creep in a T-Shirt” and “Children of the Revolution”. Pretty much making it clear, that this song, even though it is fantastic will not be their defining hit, and there is more to come.
With the visuals and the music what PTM was giving us, was “Woodstock” for those who never experienced it. John has said in an interview that the latest album was inspired by a ticket from Woodstock in 1969, which his father attended.
With the combination of music and vocals, it was a psychedelic trip of music stretching back 50 Years, finishing the night, with a blinding rendition of “Sleep Forever” and “Hey Jude”. Acknowledging the music of the past, and the path it took over fifteen years for these guys to get mainstream success. And their still self-depreciating about it, since they still use their own instruments and everything is real.
But overall it was a fantastic night, PTM, grabbed the crowd, who sang along, enjoyed the experience and walked out of the O2 feeling elated by this.
Sadly, this is the kicker, I was at a concert with a teenager, it was as hot as the fires of hell in there, even with the water the Forum was providing, and she was starting to flag. Once again being a responsible adult time, which truly sucks sometimes.
Yes, we had to leave, even though she’s only two inches shorter than me, I could have blagged to get her on the standing floor, but I’m surprised that no one fainted from the heat.
I was disappointed that I missed “People Say” since it is my favourite song and the first song I ever heard from the band. Consoled myself, by remembering that I saw them at the Lexington years back.
I found the ticket in a box a few days ago, the poster they just gave me.
But even with the mainstream success, they are the same guys I saw back then, just there to entertain, and bring us fantastic music. 15 years and 8 albums later. Portugal. The Man is still the same and we love them for it.
Merch wise, I finally got a band shirt but was miffed that they didn’t have the “I liked Portugal. The Man. Before They Sold Out”. Always liked that T-Shirt because it’s true. But Summer my 13-year-old niece loved her first rock gig, so I did my job as a responsible aunt.
Incidentally, shameless plug time, but I live in the hope the band will see this, and grant me a miracle. When I had to learn to walk again, I created a list of things I wanted to do.
PTM if you see this, can you make number 2 on the impossible part happen, please. https://jvoportugal.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/the-geek-list-amended/
This was the setlist for the night from https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/portugal-the-man/2018/o2-forum-kentish-town-london-england-73eb2efd.html
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 / Purple Yellow Red and Blue
Live in the Moment
Feel It Still
Creep in a T-Shirt / Children Of The Revolution
(T. Rex cover)
Atomic Man / Gimme Shelter
All Your Light (Times Like These) / A Kilo / The Home / I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Hip Hop Kids
Holy Roller (Hallelujah)
Sleep Forever / Smile / Hey Jude
Evil Friends / Day Man