by Jacob DeSmit
Although Portugal. The Man was originally formed as a side project for lead vocalist and guitarist John Baldwin Gourley, the band has risen to prominence in the experimental rock scene. With New York City garage rock newcomers Skaters in tow, Portugal hit the Cleveland House of Blues stage last night to showcase new material from their eighth studio release, Evil Friends, as well as some fresh takes on more revered songs from albums past.
For being the show’s only opening band, Skaters spent a surprisingly small amount of time — only 25 minutes — on stage. Even so, the band, whose members came out wearing matching green trench coats that made them look more like a group of young war vets than punk rockers, packed their brief set with 8 straightforward rock songs that seemed to keep everyone’s attention throughout. The crowd was eager to loosen up to the bouncing beat and razor sharp crooning of leading man Michael Cummings on “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)” and “Schemers.” With smiles plastered on their faces, the guys in Skaters left the stage looking like they had enjoyed their stint in Cleveland just as much as the audience had.
Portugal. The Man woke up the crowd from the half hour lull of their set up period with “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” a single from Evil Friends that had just about everyone in attendance screaming and dancing along in exactly the kind of ecstasy that Gourley sang of. Their set, 18 songs that spanned about an hour and a half, featured much of their newest material, including “Creep In A T-Shirt” and “Modern Jesus.” After playing the latest album’s title track, the band seamlessly transitioned into a very unexpected, though very cool, rendition of the “Day Man” song from the TV show It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, before transitioning again into an older fan favorite, “People Say.” But most interesting was how Portugal ended both the standard set and the encore with takes on classics by The Beatles; the end chanting segment from “Hey Jude” had the mind-blown crowd cheering for “three more songs,” while a heavy “Helter Skelter” ensured that this show will be one that fans, old and new, talk about until the next time they come to town.