When watching footage of recorded concerts there are always interstitial shots of people in the front rows. They are sweaty and euphoric; their hands are in the air, they have the biggest smiles on their faces and they are singing along with the band at the top of their lungs. It is an experience like no other, to share that experience with the band and to be in close quarters with that many other fans. It can be a small club with 20 other people, or a sold out arena with more people than most small cities, it doesn’t matter; the live experience moves you.
This is what I think of every time I listen to Portugal. The Man. Their presence is made for the live stage, which is fitting because name a festival and chances are they’ve played it, and probably twice. Does that mean this band is codependent and can’t say no? Listen to their latest album: In the Mountain, In the Cloud, and you will know that answer is “no.” This band has an energy about them that lets the listener know they live to perform. I’m sure they would play a broom closet if they had one fan in Anaconda, Montana whose one wish in life was to see the band perform.
In Portugal. The Man’s latest studio release, they have taken the skills they actualized from their aggressive touring schedule and concentrated them into a recorded album. In the Mountain, In the Cloud is a well mixed, well rehearsed live concert. It just happens that concert was performed in a recording studio in front of a live audience of producers and mixing artists. As their first major-label release, they were afforded a high production level to achieve their vision.
What was their vision? A high-energy concert with a nod to late 60s early 70s glam rock. The first track, “So American,” sets the tone with an opening reminiscent of Ziggy Stardust era Bowie and leads into frontman John Gourley’s falsetto and full rock ensemble, complete with a string section and synthesizers. The first three tracks keep with this theme, then “Senseless” marks an abrupt tonal shift with a fuzzy aggressiveness. From that track on, there is an electronic accompaniment to their sound that moves Portugal. The Man into a more contemporary landscape, all the while keeping their 70s rock roots. “You Carried Us (Share With Me the Sun)” provides a mid-album injection of energy that will have audience members at their next concert singing along in unison. Their album closes with the grand, 6 minute-plus “Sleep Forever,” a fitting end to any concert and will leave their fans clamoring for more.
In the Mountain, In the Cloud is a great nod to an almost forgotten era of music, with a dash of modernity added in for good measure. What sets this album apart from others is the relentless energy that Portugal. The Man put into recording it. Their ability to put you in the front row of one of their shows is their true talent.
I can’t wait for the encore.