Nearly 10 years have passed since I was last in the Bull & Gate and not much seems to have changed in London’s Indieland Mecca.
Many of the same faces are still here, musical vampires and their insatiable desire for the ‘new’ un-quenched. This is where Zane Lowe would go if he loved new music half as much as he thinks he does.
Ironically the last band I saw play here was Coldplay, and like Portugal, the Man they too had just signed a big record deal, hungry for success. It’s strange but first band on at the Bull & Gate is closer to the main stage at Glastonbury than you might think.
On paper, all the signs are good for Portugal, The Man, and for such young chaps they can already dip into a substantial (and wonderful 4 albums worth) back catalogue of material.
After an initial murky sound the band from Wasilla, Alaska showed frequent glimmers of the talent Atlantic Records have seen fit to invest in. In particular The Sun and People Say from ‘The Satanic Satanist‘ were highlights in a fairly low key set along with the fantastic Got it All and Sleep Forever (see below) from the forthcoming ‘In The Mountain In The Cloud‘ (out next month).
The trio of vocals (John Gourley guitar, Zachary Carothers, bass, and especially keyboard player Ryan Neighbors) combine with the musical backdrop into a psychedelic mixture of 70’s glam rock and Mercury Rev (with snow on them). The new songs in particular show a growing confidence the band has in itself, and are two of my favourite tracks of this year.
One small niggle, not having seen the band live before I was hoping for a little bit more ‘presence’ onstage.
You don’t have to tell jokes in-between songs but sometimes it’s nice for a band to connect with an audience on a small level, even a disquieted Radiohead manage to do it. And when the shout of ‘last one’ came from the soundman, bass player Zachary couldn’t get off the stage quick enough.
Not the sort of thing I was expecting from a band who should be playing every gig like it’s their last (It’s not like he had to catch the tube home or anything).
I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt this time as maybe the were being respectful to the other bands on the bill and technically it was a ‘secret’ show, (so secret in fact I think they had forgotten to tell anyone about it) or maybe he thought the sound guy had shouted ‘last orders’, but it should serve as a warning, preaching to the converted is easy.
Ok then so in summary….
Portugal, the Man are a fantastic band with some AWESOME songs and are definitely one to watch and the new record is a ‘must have’. But they mustn’t take it for granted – a wise man once said ‘it’s a long way to the top if you wanna to Rock n’ Roll’.