By Michel R Dussack
On Thursday October 20th, Alberta Cross, GIVERS, and Portugal. The Man played arguably the biggest show of the 2011 edition of the CMJ Marathon at Terminal 5. Alberta Cross, a band with origins both in Europe and New York took the stage first and played a solid 30 minute set, winning over many new fans and surely pleasing the fan who yelled out to them that he came to the show just to see them. It wasn’t hard to see why they garner enough dedication to have people come to the massive Terminal 5 to catch a short opening set. The band plays their music with an insane amount of energy, with vocalist Petter Ericson Stakee frequently coming to the edge of the stage to get right in the faces of the fans. At one point towards the end of their set, he took this one step further, hopping off the stage and into the photographer’s pit to get even closer to the crowd. While often classified as “folk rock”, Alberta Cross is so much more than that, nearing alternative on some of the heavier tracks, and country on some of the softer tracks.
GIVERS took the stage next and the indie pop group from Louisiana proved that they could easily handle playing on a large stage, something I had doubts about after catching them at the much more intimate Ace Hotel that afternoon. Vocalists Taylor Guarisco and Tiffany Lamson frequently trade lines and harmonize together, giving the band something that easily distinguishes them from the countless other indie pop bands out there right now. Tiffany Lamson can be seen as the bands secret weapon as she provides vocals, additional percussion, xylophone, and ukulele during the bands live set. Throughout their 35 minute set, the crowd was dancing, and many in the crowd seemed already familiar with the band’s material, most notably single “Up Up Up”.
By the time Portugal. The Man took the stage, the crowd was sufficiently warmed up, though whether or not they were fully ready for the nearly 2 hour, 24 song marathon set is debatable. Kicking things off with the massive hit “So American”, it’s clear there’s something about this band that can’t be captured on their records. Perhaps it’s their high energy performances, their outstanding lighting and stage designs, or even their dedicated fans. The crowd was something completely unexpected for many who’ve never seen the band before – moshpits broke out, and crowdsurfers came sailing over the railing frequently. Opening with one of your biggest hits from your newest album usually means a band is going to focus on new material solely, and while most of “In The Mountain In The Cloud” was played throughout the night, it would be a while before the band would even think of playing another track from it.
A roaring cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” came early on, something unexpected, at least from this reviewer. This was no straight cover though – the band made it their own, making it sufficiently heavier, and dare I say it, headbanging material. Old favorite “AKA M80 The Wolf” followed and the crowd really started to go insane. A blend of older hits and newer numbers would follow, each track seemingly morphing right into the next one. Popular cover “All The Young Dudes” would come a couple songs later, prompting a massive sing-along. When the band launched into “Elephants” next, it was clear that it wasn’t just covers that the crowd knew nearly every word to. Portugal. The Man then started alternating old song and new song, each one prompting a larger cheer from the crowd. By the time the last song “Sleep Forever” came, it was hard to imagine that the band could last much longer.
After a brief encore break, they returned however, for a 5 song encore that pushed what was already an outstanding performance over the top, into one that many will not soon forget. Most notable was a brilliant cover of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, something that many bands would never even think about attempting. They would then go on to play “Guns and Dogs”, and close the show with “Chicago”, off their debut album “Waiter: You Vultures”, a real treat for the long time fans at the show. If it seems to you that Portugal. The Man crept up out of nowhere to be playing to a near sold out crowd at Terminal 5, you’d be right. Just last year they were playing at the much more intimate Highline Ballroom. However, it’s clear that they belong in bigger venues, and that the reason behind their success (not to mention loyal fanbase) is their amazing live shows.
All photos by Michel R Dussack
PORTUGAL. THE MAN