Review Summary: Portugal. The Jam
If you have ever spoken to someone who has attended a Portugal. The Man show they would most likely attest to how well the band performs in a live setting. Even though the band has a less than perfect track record in the studio, there are few naysayers when it comes to the band's live shows. The band always comes well prepared with a solid set list, usually consisting of fan favorites and some rarities thrown in the mix. Instead of playing the songs note for note as heard on the records, the band likes to mutate songs for the live setting. Some songs are completely changed, while others feature an extended jam in places or a crowd sing-along. The band has gotten better and better at perfecting their live show, and are often compared to the likes of The Mars Volta; another band notorious for their intricate on stage jams and captivating performance. For those who have not yet experienced a Portugal show Live at Neumo's
will give a glimpse of what exactly the buzz is all about.
Live At Neumo's
is a recording of a show Portugal played back in 2007 on tour for their second full length Church Mouth
at Neumo's in Seattle. The album was officially released by the band for free through CASH Music (ironically CASH Music is more about band promotion than sales) in audio and DVD quality video formats. At just about 40 minutes long Portugal plays 7 songs: four from the then just released Church Mouth
, two off their debut album Waiter: "You Vultures!"
and b-side 'The Devil' off the Devil Say I, I Say Air
EP. Naturally the band chooses the best songs off each album, including fan favorites 'AKA M80 The Wolf' and 'Church Mouth.' The former clocks in at nearly triple the length of the studio version (9 minutes!), featuring numerous jams and an a cappella sing-along during the second chorus with the audience. John C. Gourley's voice croons and swoons more than any studio recording can capture-- one can almost feel the emotion coming from his voice. The vocals are mixed fairly high, particularly on the audio recording of the album, whereas the DVD production is more favorable to the guitars.
'Church Mouth' gets the full live treatment, transforming into an aggressive romp filled with untamed guitars and booming bass. Of course the band finds a spot to jam out even in the short track length of the song, bringing yet another special quality to the live version of the track. Rarely played b-side 'The Devil' shines live as well, consisting of only John on guitar and maracas and tambourine providing rhythm for the majority of the song. The crowd comes together for a few "Oooos" during the chorus, on stage yells can be heard and plenty of unexpected shredding makes 'The Devil' very successful. Prime cuts off Church Mouth
such as 'Shade,' 'Sugar Cinnamon' and 'Bellies are Full' fill out the rest of the set.
Both formats of the recording will yield different experiences. The audio recording is not the best, mixing the vocals a little too high and washing out the rest of the band; but as the band's only official live recording it is absolutely worth having. On the other hand, the DVD is nearly perfect when it comes to small club recordings. For whatever reason the band loves to pretend they are a post-rock band and play with as little lighting and as much fog as possible, making it tough to see what the band is doing most of the time. The atmosphere created by the band is somehow fitting however. As the music intensifies so does the lighting, sometimes flashing at near epilepsy including levels. John's unique stage positioning can be seen in the DVD, as he faces every way on stage except at the audience. On the other end of the spectrum is bassist Zach Carothers, whose energetic playing and stage presence is highly entertaining. One can see just how much the band is engaged in their playing as they jam out, making the video very enjoyable to watch.
Hailed as one of the best touring acts around today, Live At Neumo's
gives a great view at that bold claim. A solid seven song setlist clocking in at a cool 40 minutes makes this recording easy to pop on again and again. For those who have never experienced Portugal live, Live at Neumo's
is a must have. Fans of the band mouths' should already be watering for the first official live recording of the band; and as a free give away there is no excuse not to own this. Hopefully Portugal. The Man keeps up the momentum and continues to wow audiences for many more years.