It was hazy — in the good way. It was the type of hazy that masks certain sights under layers of lights and smushes certain sounds into a wall of indistinguishable goosebumps. The type of haze that acts as an overarching, sensory-activating blanket that primes a crowd to notice the details, subtleties and quirks that define a band, even if they don’t know every song on the setlist.
Portugal. The Man was engulfed in that haze on Saturday, as the band kept the sold-out crowd of Detroit’s Majestic Theater captivated for the entirety of the fog-filled set. Body to body, from the front row to the bar in the back, the audience grooved along, varying pace and intensity with the band, jigging to playful opener “Creep in A T-Shirt,” pounding out angst to hit single “Hip Hop Kids.”
Throughout the show, lead singer and guitarist John Baldwin Gourley was stationed on the far left side of the stage, rather stagnant beneath the shadows of the stage lights, while bassist Zachary Carothers energetically commanded the right. Carothers acquired much of the crowd’s attention, taking shots and jumping around, even as Gourley’s falsetto propelled each song with his urgent but floating tone.
Behind the two frontmen, a giant LCD backdrop oozed psychedelic images, similar what you’d expect at a slightly-creepy Tame Impala concert. At times it looked like a lava lamp — fluorescent, multicolored paint dripping down a wall in patterns that neglected the laws of gravity. Other times, these visuals flashed twirling, androgynous mannequins, interspersed with what looked like an intricate pinwheel of grey, blank corpses.
Introducing their most popular hits, the band cultivated hype by displaying the title on the screen, letting the crowd prepare itself just before. Three songs in, “Modern Jesus” fizzled onto the screen in turquoise block letters, while red and yellow paint strokes swirled in the background.
One of the night’s most striking moments unfolded as the crowd gradually recognized Portugal’s instrumental cover of The Beatles’ “(I Want You) She’s So Heavy.” “Heavy” is truly the most accurate word to describe it, as three minutes of syncopated cymbal smashing, organ wailing and guitar screeching built to a warping crescendo.
The people just couldn’t get enough, loudly resisting after the group closed the show with their iconic “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” Predictably, the audience stuck around, chanting for an encore. Their voices were heard as the band returned, perpetuating the electricity for just two more songs. Displaying remarkable endurance in delivering their signature edgy energy, Portugal. The Man lit up the Majestic Theatre; and their intoxicating haze lingered as fans flowed onto the moonlit sidewalks of Detroit after the amps unplugged.