Portugal. the Man delivers enthusiastic, surprisingly moving performance

Indie band displays philanthropic side at downtown concert

ae-PortugalTheMan-CourtesyPortugalTheMan

Indie rock group Portugal. The Man played at the Sprint Pavilion this past Monday night.

Courtesy Portugal. The Man | Cavalier Daily

“F—k hatred! This one is for Charlottesville!”

These words were emboldened onscreen at the Sprint Pavilion this past Monday night as indie rock group Portugal. The Man took the stage over a week after the violence at the “Unite the Right” rally unsettled Charlottesville. Several days prior, the band announced it would be donating 100 percent of the concert’s proceeds to the Heal Charlottesville Fund to support the city’s restoration process. Fittingly, Portugal. The Man imbued its usual set with messages of resistance and hope by highlighting the stubborn defiance of its lyrics and calling for the audience to always stand up for the good — creating a night that served as both a musical escape and a small outcry against Charlottesville’s recent darkness. 

The opening act, The Dig, started the night with a sound strikingly similar to Portugal. The Man, albeit a bit more melancholy. Their set included several dreamy, synth-heavy numbers and well-thought lyrics, which proved to be an ultimately worthwhile prelude to the headlining attraction.

When the main performance began, a large, standing audience greeted Portugal. The Man with an uproar of applause and pressed closer to the stage. Though the band was originally scheduled to play at the Jefferson Theater, the venue was changed to the Sprint Pavilion after the group’s hit single “Feel It Still” generated mainstream radio attention and boosted its fan base this summer. The switch to a larger venue was the right call — fans both old and new packed the Pavilion to hear the up-and-coming group, who will most likely attract even more listeners as their time on the pop charts continues. 

The setlist varied songs from 2017’s “Woodstock” — the band’s latest, contemporary pop-influenced album — with favorites from past albums like “Evil Friends” and “In the Mountain in the Cloud.” Lead singer John Gourley’s ethereal falsetto shone specifically in mellower numbers such as “So Young” and “Waves,” while the funky, danceable “Feel It Still” and “Hip Hop Kids” showcased the band’s energetic stage presence. 

As the band played, a series of kaleidoscopic images spun in and out of focus on the screen behind them, occasionally clearing to reveal bold-typed messages such as “We can fight it” and “Resist!” Though these graphics are a part of Portugal. the Man’s routine set and correspond with its lyrics, they took on a new meaning when placed in the context of the horrific events that took place mere steps away from the Pavilion so recently.

The most poignant moment of the concert happened at its close. Portugal. the Man returned for an encore of its original songs “Number One” and “Atomic Man,” and then invited the members of The Dig back onstage for a stripped-down cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” The band members performed John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s lyrics with a reverent tone, and the effect was surprisingly profound. The audience, initially hushed at the start of the song, began to sing along. Before leaving the stage, Portugal. the Man expressed its gratitude to the audience for both coming out to the show and standing up for what is right. 

related stories