Portugal. The Man, with Crystal Fighters
Revolution Live, Fort Lauderdale
October 9, 2013
Better than: Taking acid and watching Yellow Submarine.
If your idea of a wicked Wednesday night is tripping balls to some psychedelic indie rock, then chances are good that you were among the sweaty, sore-throated masses at Revolution Live last night. Concertgoers were treated to back-to-back sessions of soaring guitars and trippy visuals thanks to Portugal. The Man and Crystal Fighters.
It was pop at its most unapologetic. Both bands skipped from one crowd-pleaser to the next with only the briefest detours into darker material. And both delivered strong sets that left fans satiated.
Crystal Fighters started the evening on a psychedelic note. Gilbert Vierich (electronics, guitars), Graham Dickson (guitar), and Andrea Marongiu (drums) launched into the synthy "Solar System" with no sign of lead singers Sebastian Pringle and Eleanor Fletcher.
Pringle and Fletcher sprung onto the stage in style a minute later. Both singers wore bizarre, sparkly outfits, but it was Pringle whose getup was the most absurd. He wore huge sunglasses, a rainbow sequined jacket and top, a black skirt, and enough bling to make Mr. T blush. His long hair was pulled into a knot, wrapped in a headband, and draped with a bedazzled scarf.
Thankfully, the Spanish band had the songs to back up its style. Pringle and Fletcher led the audience from one folktronic hit to another; "LA Calling" and "At Home" were crowd favorites. As Pringle pranced on stage and Basque flags waived in the audience, Vierich and Dickson took turns pounding on a giant wooden percussion instrument called a txalaparta.
Crystal Fighters provided the perfect opening mix of dreamy alt-rock and up-tempo pop. The band borrowed two members from Portugal for its finale: a barnstormer that ended with bare-chested guitarist Dickson climbing onto a table. The result was a screaming Spanish fangasm of spectacular proportions.
It was a hard act to follow, but Portugal. The Man didn't disappoint. Lead singer and guitarist John Baldwin Gourle took the stage in a suit jacket, buttoned-up dress shirt, and slim gold chain. The combination made him look like a cross between a college T.A. and a preacher's son.
His music was anything but uptight. Gourle sang baby-making rock ballads with devilish lyrics like these from "Modern Jesus":
Don't pray for us/We don't need no modern Jesus/To roll with us/The only rule we need is never/Giving up/The only faith we have is faith in us.
The progression from one song to the next was nearly flawless as Portugal opened with the ode to ecstasy "Purple Yellow Red and Blue," only to then come back to it at the end of the set. The only problem was technical trouble Gourle seemed to having with his pedal board early on. "Fucking technology," he griped.
The Alaskan band with a European name was aided by a giant four-peaked projection screen. For most of the set, the screen was splashed in psychedelic patterns. But during some songs, the screen transformed into a canvas for strange anatomical animations: brains with mouths, blinking eyeballs, demon hands with pink claws, and what looked like a pair of green, throbbing testicles.
Somehow it all worked. Portugal. The Man progressed through its excellent new Danger Mouse-produced album, Evil Friends, while tossing in the occasional oldies like "So American" and "Got It All."
Portugal played for a solid two hours, but, in all honesty, the set could have been shorter. The band lost the crowd a little during a mazy, 20-minute encore capped by a kitschy cover of "Hey Jude." But the initial set had been so seamless and soaring that not even a stumble at the finish could mar an otherwise kickass Wednesday night.
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