Sitting in the back of the Neurolux nursing a birthday hangover, I did not know what to expect from Portugal.The Man. The Portland, Ore. band's latest album, Censored Colors, had elevated their music to another level by showing an ear for ingenuity and elaborate vocal/instrumental arrangements; I was eager to hear what this translated into for a live show.
When the band took the stage, a welcome chaotic fervor ensued, hitting an apex with the Zeppelin-esque track "Colors." The repeated line "I'm not afraid to die / 'cause all these colors will change," showcased the culminating catharsis. However, to my dismay, the energy quickly died.
After the first numbers, Portugal reverted into a mechanical state, going through the set list without the excess of enthusiasm that I expected to match the music being played. Partially, for a tired band on the road, this is understandable, but the flip side is that rocking out and putting on a hell of a show is exactly the job of the rock band—if you are going to play rock music, then make it rock. The crowd began to reflect the listless energy, since aside from a smattering of devoted fans on the front lines, the interest began to shift towards drinks and conversations.
My hangover began to sink in and a nap started to sound increasingly appealing. Nonetheless, just about the time I had decided that the show had hit the denouement, Portugal came full circle. The intangible energy the band put forth began to increase and by the end, they were back in full swing. Ultimately, even if that night at the Neurolux wasn't the pinnacle of their performances, Portugal is an up-and-coming band who are going places. The adroitness with which Portugal merges Portland indie-scene songwriting sensibilities with the grandeur and theatrics of '70s era rock, creates a sound with few contemporaries. I, for one will be there the next time Portugal.The Man comes to town. Maybe without a hangover too.