It was a collision of noise and bodies last night at Red Butte for the sold-out and youth-filled crowd there to see indie-rock favorites Portugal. The Man.
The started their set with nods to Pink Floyd and Metallica before digging into their own catalog. Throughout the night intrepid fans should have noticed riffs borrowed from everyone from The Beatles to Weezer seamlessly woven into the layers of PTM’s own songs, which also seemed to flow together effortlessly.
In fact, the entire show felt a bit like sitting in on a garage band—a good one, no doubt. A band who pays reverence to the artists who have come before them, like with the samples mentioned above—and with the set-closing “Don’t Look Back in Anger” cover. But, they took the garage band feel to the next-level when they played their biggest hit twice—“Feel It Still” appeared on the setlist both beginning and mid-set. At first I thought either I was confused or they were high—I knew they hadn’t run out of songs) but a look a recent setlists tells me that it’s a commonality at their shows.
Look, I’m all for giving the people what they want. And putting a song on the setlist twice and closing with a cover are both moves reserved for a band who is confident in who they are and, maybe more importantly, who their fans are.
The connection with the crowd was based purely on music, as there was no onstage banter to speak of, aside from the role a screen—flashing images varying from a slightly terrifying man with darting eyeballs to what could be best described as an early Windows OS screen saver—designed in part, I think, to save the band from the need to talk to the crowd. Sometimes words splashed across it: “Smokin’ Weed?” it asked at one point (ed note: you betcha they were), “That’s fu***n’ badass!” it said as the crowd cheered. The flash of “Thank you, (insert city here)!” though, might have taken the gimmick a little too far. A little appreciation goes a long way, guys. Say our name!
In fact, the only real verbal interaction the crowd got was after the main set, but before the encore, when they came onstage to tell the crowd that they’d play a few more songs, and that it was good to be back in Salt Lake. “Man,” one member of the band said (ed. Note: things got messy on the lawn, I retreated to the VIP section at the top of the venue like the old person I am long before this, so I cannot tell you who said it. Sloppy reporting on my part—guilty), “A lot of people who don’t travel a lot don’t know how hard Salt Lake can go!” I seemed to be the only one in the crowd who found it a great irony that he shouted that out in middle of a giant garden with flowers, literally, right in front of him. Oh yeah. Portugal, SLC goes real hard. Right up to that 10:30 pm city-wide noise curfew, at least. Sometimes we even push it to 10:35, but let’s keep that between us, OK?
Fu***n’ badass, indeed.