Portugal. The Man at the Charleston Music Hall — A Show Review

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Last week, Charleston had the privilege of playing host to the Lords of Portland themselves, Portugal. The Man. Fresh off of their latest singles “Noise Pollution” and “Feel it Still,” the indie-psych quintet is gearing up to embark on a massive summer tour highlighted by dates at Bonnaroo and Red Rocks.

Us here in the Lowcountry were some of the first folks to see these new tracks live, and we got to see them in two vastly different settings courtesy of 105.5 The Bridge and Half-Moon Outfitters’ impromptu unplugged session. Six hours before their sound check at Music Hall, the guys situated themselves beneath a rock wall and played a short but incredibly sweet set to a room of no more than fifty people. Their intricate instrumental melodies were replaced by the harmonies of Gourley (vocals, guitar) and Carothers (bass) over acoustic strumming, giving some all-time classics (Modern Jesus, So American) a refreshing bit of refinement. We were fortunate enough to chat with the guys for a minute after the session and they were incredibly gracious, sparing time for photos, small talk, and autographs.

Portugal. The Man at Half-Moon Outfitters, picture taken by Matt Green

(insert clever rock pun here)

After marinating in a fanboy induced stupor for five hours, it was finally time to head to Music Hall for the real show. Hdbeendope, a young but well-seasoned (cayenne? maybe cumin…) rapper out of Brooklyn got the night started, performing tracks off of his debut album Pheace Be the Journey. He and his drummer certainly weren’t lacking in energy, but the humble patrons of Charleston’s Music Hall seemed to be. On several occasions, HD playfully called out members of the audience for looking “a little too comfy.” A hip-hop act is already an edgy booking to precede Portugal. The Man, especially when placed inside a seated venue such as The Hall. Spectators aside, HD sounded great. If you fancy the gritty, industrial beats of modern New York hip-hop (Joey, Flatbush, etc.) be sure to check him out.

Portugal. The Man took the stage around 9:30, making sure to arrange themselves left and right of center stage as to not impede the path of the visuals being projected behind them. For those who are unfamiliar with Portugal’s style or the art of frontman John Gourley, try to imagine what it would look like if Adult Swim were to animate a Tool show, and that show was to be featured on an episode of Adventure Time in which Finn and Jake save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies.

Anyhoo, they sounded fantastic. What The Music Hall lacks in crowd movement (it wasn’t until the encore that most of the venue was standing) it makes up for in sound quality and viewership. I was seated in the balcony and could hear every part of every song with great clarity. Perhaps it’s just recency bias, but “Noise Pollution” and “Feel it Still” were especially impressive. The set was also highlighted by an extended version of “Times like These (All Your Light)” that seemed to explore several different keys and tempos, and a mashup of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” with “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue.” This was my second time seeing the band, the first being at last year’s Okeechobee Fest, and I was blown away yet again. Having experienced them at a festival, a retail store, and a formal venue, it’s difficult to pick out a favorite show. Music Hall, however, strips away all of the distractions of a festival or the novelty of an unplugged set, allowing the band’s astounding chemistry (seriously, seriously tight. Tuco would be proud) to shine. Between their ability to jam on a track live and the awesome visual accompaniment, Gourley, Carothers, and company put on a show that is equal parts excitement and intrigue.

Written by Matt Green

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