Portugal. The Man’ s Jagermeister Music Tour has endured an uneven couple of weeks after losing their drummer in the middle of a show in New Orleans earlier in the month. They finished that gig with help from the drummer of opening act The Lonely Forest, and cobbled together some subsequent dates by foregoing drums altogether for a good portion of the show and playing much more acoustic. By the time they hit the stage at the House of Blues in Boston this past Sunday, however, they had found a drummer to sit in for the entire show (Kane Ritchotte – who was excellent), and perhaps making up for lost time the band responded with a pounding, high-energy, jam-filled set.
Portugal. opened the show with same trio of songs they’ve been mixing and matching at the start of much of the tour: “All Your Light,” “The Woods,” and “So American.” The show really kicked into gear, though, a couple of numbers later, when the driving rhythm of “The Devil” (hard to envision that song without drums) segued into a scorching cover of The Beatles “Helter Skelter.” It was the first of two nods the band would make to the Fab Four over the course of the night. Indeed, while Portugal. The Man’s sound is regularly compared to early ‘70s glam rockers like David Bowie and T-Rex, I think their most recent album (2011’s In The Mountain, In The Cloud ) owes more to latter-era Beatles than anything else.
The band started to lay out some extended jams on “AKA M80 The Wolf,” the Beatles-esque “Floating,” “Senseless” and “Colors,” with John Gourley and touring guitarist Noah Gersh trading spirographing leads over Zach Carothers’ anchoring bass lines. Other highlights included the Pink Floyd-ish “Chicago” (maybe it’s Pink Floyd-ish to me solely on basis of the opening lines: “The pig’s spitting taxes and unwanted tasks/We say, ‘send me to the battle please, sir!’”) and the Bowie-like “Got It All” and “Do You.”
About halfway through the hour-and-45-minute show, it became increasingly clear to the crowd (as sometimes happens) that they were witnessing a first-rate performance by a band earning its keep for the night. The cheering got louder and louder as Portugal. (and The Man) reeled off one jam after another, barely pausing for breath: “Everyone Is Golden,” “Head Is A Flame,” “My Mind,” and yet another drum-laden crowd-pleaser, “Bellies Are Full.” They closed out the set with a jam of “Sleep Forever” morphing into the classic refrain from “Hey Jude,” followed by a single-song encore of “And I” before Boston city ordinance 16-26.6 required them to wrap things up.
It remains to be seen whether Portugal. The Man can find a long-term solution to the drummer issue (they lost their original drummer, Jason Sechrist, late last year). But given the importance of a full rhythm section to their overall sound, one hopes they can figure it out, and avoid any Spinal Tap-like spontaneous combustions down the road.
Both openers – local band The Okay Win and Washington-based The Lonely Forest – were worth arriving early for. The current leg of the Jagermeister tour continues through mid-May, with a dozen or so upcoming dates in the Midwest and California.