PORTUGAL .THE MAN + BENJAMIN BOOKER @ HOLLYWOOD PALLADIUM
Photos by Adam Maresca Words by Madison Desler
“Kyle’s got a boner,” flashed the slide behind Portugal. The Man during a particularly heavy rendition of “All Your Light (Times Like These) / The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Whether the erect “Kyle” in question was keyboardist Kyle O’Quin, or just any of the dozens of Kyles that were surely in the sold-out crowd at the Hollywood Palladium for the first of two consecutive shows is not important.
Nor was it important that the mutant, hardwood manikin-looking graphics probably started to freak a few people out (while also giving them flashbacks to high school art class), or that the amount of very large men (maybe named Kyle) blocking everyone’s view seemed higher than average. What mattered was the music—a smorgasbord of covers (Metallica, Pink Floyd, Oasis), old favorites, and highlights off their latest album, Woodstock.
Earlier this year, it was the inescapable “Feel It Still” that finally bumped the Alaska-born, Oregon-bred band toward the radio mainstream. The song’s retro bass riff and John Gourley’s soulful falsetto are enough to get any crowd going, making it worthy of the reprise it received near the end of the set, while earlier standbys like “Modern Jesus” and “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” got the biggest audience response as multicolored lasers shot our over the pit.
An eight-piece string and horn section added extra weight to the glammy, Bowie-esque “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)” and “So American,” and two breakdancers took the stage to brighten up “All Your Light” and “Live In The Moment.” But it was the band’s tight musicianship and sternum-shaking power that stayed at center stage, making every song, from “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)” to “Waves” feel absolutely massive.
Portugal. The Man is known for their genre flexibility, never fitting comfortably under any other label than “indie”, and it’s no secret that their latest turn toward super-polished production has turned some people off, but slick tracks like “So Young” and “Number One” off of Woodstock benefit from the raw edge of live performance—signifying that even after all this time, there’s still more to Portugal. The Man than meets the eye.
Recent Echo Park transplant Benjamin Booker opened the show with cuts off his soulful, sophomore release, Witness—the stirring, gospel notes of “Believe” seeping sweetly through the walls as the crowd trickled in.
Booker’s got a bigger band than the last time he came around, but he still keeps his eyes squeezed tightly shut, only adding to the sexy, sticky stomp of “The Slow Drag Under.” After playing the title track, he whipped out two crowd-pleasers from his 2014 self-titled debut—the very punked-out Chuck Berry-indebted “Have You Seen My Son” and what is probably going to go down as his “Wonderwall”—the still gobsmackingly good “Violent Shiver.”
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica cover)
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 / Purple Yellow Red and Blue
Feel It Still
Head Is a Flame (Cool With It)
Got It All
Once Was One
All Your Light (Times Like These) / A Kilo / The Home / I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (Ghostface Killah and The Beatles Covers)
Live in the Moment
Feel It Still (Reprise)
Hip Hop Kids
Holy Roller (Hallelujah)
Don’t Look Back in Anger (Oasis cover)
Killing in the Name (Rage Against the Machine)