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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Portugal The Man

Live in Dekalb, IL, November, 2008

Review by Travis Jensen

There is a certain ambiance created when any band takes the stage. Whether it be your favorite local cover band, original group, or any one of the biggest name shows on the road at the height of its popularity.

The crowd always seems to feed off certain energy which is dispersed by others in the attendance which is fueled by the band they come to see. This last November 8th at The House Cafe in downtown Dekalb Illinois, I witnessed such an event that captured this certain mood. The band in question was Portugal The Man. The crowd was filled with those of several different categories of music enthusiasts which ranged from the typical misguided youth to those of us who have been around the music scene for awhile. Whoever you were that night, the experience of phenomenal music was the same.


Travis Jensen
 
Travis Jensen
   

To give you a brief background of the band, I’ll start with the lineup. First we have John Gourley on vocals and guitar, Zach Carothers on bass, Garrett Lunceford on drums and Ryan Neighbors on keyboards. They are currently on a U.S. “Gold Tour” featuring their newly released LP called Censored Colors which is their third full-length album. They are strongly supported by open acts such as RX Bandits, Wintersleep and Earl Greyhound whom I found to be absolutely amazing as a live act! Check out the band website at www.portugaltheman.net or their MySpace page for a taste of their live act and upcoming tour information.

 

One of the many things that I find amazing about these guys is that each of them has such an individual musical quality that contributes to such a tightly-knit unit that seems to work effectively off of each other. It’s not just a typical line-up of a singer, drummer, guitar and bass player. Granted, John Gourley is the obvious front-man, who also plays rhythm guitar. However, he possesses such an exquisite vocal quality, that his guitar becomes an extension of such an extraordinary talent that is taken to a new level which is almost surreal. Songs such as “Out And In And In And Out,” “Lay Me Back Down,” “1989” and “Sit Back And Dream” reflect this both on the CD as well as on stage. He has a mystical, charismatic personality that reminds me of the late Jim Morrison at the height of his short, yet magical career. Before the show,


Travis Jensen
 
TravisJenson
   

Before the show, I had a chance to talk a few minutes with Garrett Lunceford, PTM’s drummer. He is very cool as a person and seemed very relaxed and personable. Then he got on stage, and all of that was turned into positive energy as the driving heartbeat of the band. The song “Never Pleased” is a great example of his transformed persona from who he is in the crowd to who he is on stage. 

Zachary Carothers is more than just a bass player. He is just as much as a part of the front line as Gourley, when it comes to his part of the lyrics, playing the bass and on-stage presence which is evident in almost every song they play. I think that what helps to make this band such a team, is that it appears as though it’s not just about the singer and guitar player…it’s about four guys who bring equal amounts of exquisite talent to the table and establish a solid presence. Ryan Neighbors is more than just your typical keyboard player, who is usually in the back, and goes unnoticed. He brings a certain energy to the group both physically and musically by the way he is constantly moving from one set of keys to another. There are also a couple of songs that have more of an expressive quality which brings forth more of a style of playing untouched by other piano and keyboard players. The song “And I” is just one of many that seems to possess such a unique artistic presence.

 

As one song progressed into the next, and the music began to capture me emotionally, I was able to transcendentally project my mind to areas that only a band like this can induce. I felt like some songs were being played only to me, which seemed to create different emotions both spiritual and exciting. Get the Censored Colors disc and play “Our Times” and you’ll see what I mean. Or just find out the next tour date in your area and discover them for yourself. As you can see from the pictures, this is the part of the life of the band where you can catch them at a close distance. I highly recommend seeing them now, because in a couple of years, they’re going to be a small dot on a huge stage as they become a headlining arena draw.


Travis Jensen
 
Travis Jensen
   
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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