A band doesn’t usually open its set with someone else’s song.
So it was unexpected when Portugal. The Man, after taking the Palace Theatre stage Friday night for the first of two sold-out shows, played a shockingly faithful version of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
And so it was doubly unexpected when PTM followed up with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2).”
The rear stage projection screen informed the audience that the band members weren’t very good at stage banter, and that onscreen messages would speak for them. The messages provided helpful and sometimes hilarious pointers, factoids, and Jim Carrey/The Mask references throughout.
As PTM powered through “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” “Atomic Man,” “Modern Jesus,” they left many of their overt pop tricks and production by the wayside—these songs were decidedly rocked up. Punctuating the point later in the show, the screen reminded us, “That’s right kids. No computers. These are all live instruments up here.”
And though PTM employed all sorts of concert special effects like lasers, strobes, and projections, the band stayed largely in the shadows with no spotlights on the members. Even PTM’s international enormo hit, “Feel it Still,” was presented just as part of the show, and there were no star turns for the two main members: John Gourley on guitar and vocals and Zachary Carothers on bass and backing vocals. Gourley wore shorts and what looked like a hat with devil horns, but it was hard to tell in the darkness.
“So Young,” delivered as a sweet soul song, offered a short breather in the overwhelming onslaught, while the sweeping “So American,” with its acerbic lyrics, was very much a centerpiece of the show. The screen, yet again, let us have it: “We don’t like to talk about politics, but this needs to be said. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.” “So American” was fittingly followed up by “Rich Friends” with its tough as shit backbeat and stinging vocals from Gourley: “Crashing on chardonnay and Adderall… I could really really really use a rich rich friend like you.”
PTM brought their main set to a thundering conclusion with a pair of tracks from 2013’s Evil Friends. The muscular and defiant “Hip Hop Kids” rocked hard as Gourley spit venom at both rock and roll and hip hop. Then lurid images crawled on the screen as they steamrolled everyone with “Holy Roller (Hallelujah).”
At its conclusion, the onscreen message punctured the illusion most shows perpetuate: Will there be an encore? Only if we scream loudly enough! “Please Stand By/Portugal. The Man,” it read. So, yeah, they were coming back.
Bassist Carothers took the mic to let the audience know how they feel about our Twin Cities, and our music venues. “Minneapolis,” he began. “These towns, this metropolitan area has things figured out. First Avenue, the Entry, and this place is dope. A perfect mix of new and old.”
Before launching into a gorgeous version of 2011’s “Sleep Forever,” Carothers added, “See you tomorrow. One night only, two nights in a row.” With a bit of 2013’s “Smile” and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” tacked on, it was the perfect cap to an unusual night.
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica cover)
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) (Pink Floyd cover)
Purple Yellow Red and Blue
Live in the Moment
Feel it Still
All Your Light (Times Like These)/I Want You (She’s so Heavy) (Beatles cover)
Hip Hop Kids
Holy Roller (Hallelujah)
Sleep Forever/Smile/Hey Jude (Beatles cover)
About the openers: Twin Peaks’ blue-collar garage boogie lost some of the fuzzy immediacy of their studio recordings, and they sounded a bit like a meandering jam band. Occasionally, their inner T. Rex came out with a purposeful raunch, and it sounded great, particularly when the keyboardist got up and played guitar. When the guitar player asked, “What was it like to host the Super Bowl?” he was met with hundreds of side conversations of people patiently waiting for the headliner.
The crowd: A mixture of the usual live music crowd, people who looked like they were still here for Super Bowl week parties, and groups sporting Bauhaus, Surly, Summit, and Insight colors like local craft beer gangs.
Overheard in the crowd: [Regarding Twin Peaks] “I think some of these guys think they’re in a different band.”
Random notebook dump: A bold move for PTM to walk on to “Unchained Melody” and walk off to Jay Z’s “99 Problems.”