Portugal. The Man: Do They Feel It Still?

It's been nearly seven years since John Gourley led his close-knit group of bandmates, Zachary Carothers, Kyle O’Quin, Eric Howk and Zoe Manville, on their embarkment into stardom. Following the release of their Grammy-worthy hit “Feel It Still”, the pop-rock band known as Portugal. The Man, found themselves in the limelight like never before. Unfavourably, with the global pandemic hitting just after the height of the bands’ success, fallout was inevitable; however, fallout does not begin to encapsulate the hardships faced by PTM. 

Loss, addiction, and a heart-wrenching genetic disorder diagnosis of Gourley and Manville’s daughter is the short way of slating the group’s difficult evolution. Luckily for fans, the band continued to release cathartic and crowd-pleasing records. In honour of their friend Chris Black who passed away in early 2019, the band released their first album since their 2017 record Woodstock, titled: Chris Black Changed My Life. Such an album would lead into another global tour, the first since Portugal. The Man’s journey through tragedy.

On Sunday, November 20th, PTM arrived at Montreal’s MTELUS. The show’s opener Good Kids, with a sound much like that of pop-rock band LoveJoy, graciously prepared the crowd for the long-awaited performance. Prior to the group’s entrance, the mic was given to an Indigenous elder. As land recognition continues to be worked into today’s societal norms, it was refreshing to hear such a powerful voice speak to the commitment that Portugal. The Man continuously has to the Indigenous peoples. 

During their performance, PTM was heavily loaded with a variety of instruments, ranging from a double-necked electric guitar to the sudden emergence of a B flat trumpet. While their artistry was evident in their strobe-rock lighting and lyricism, their performance faltered.

The band’s seamless setlist transitions left a gaping hole in their connection with their audience. Throughout the entirety of the 90-minute show, a singular sentence was spoken to the crowd outside of song. Clearly, the intention of a live concert is not to talk an audience’s ear off, however, the lack of acknowledgement of their fans' presence left many attending the show utterly high and dry. During “Dummy”, from the band's latest album, there was promise in raising the audiences’ energy from their lukewarm sways. It was evident that the younger crowd could scream along to the lyrics, however, this was an anomaly within PTM’s set. Around the halfway mark, the band's mic levels seemed precariously uneven, leaving their sound disappointingly empty, but this wasn’t the only emptiness that exhibited. An audience member who spoke highly of Gourley’s artistry with the band, admitted that they were “pissed off” that the frontman seemed to be “hiding” during the entirety of the performance. Throughout his career, Gourley has confessed to how the pressures following the band’s Grammy win in 2018 wore him down. The frontman’s diffidence became evident as he sang onstage, woefully shrivelled into the hood of his sweater. 

In its entirety, Sunday’s performance begged the question of whether or not Portugal. The Man had been properly equipped for a strenuous tour following their difficult few years. Even their hit track, “Feel It Still” fell short as the group’s usual upbeat radio gold, became a dismal piece, requiring the use of Shazam to decrypt this live rendition’s previous radio fame.