Portugal. The Man rode into Santa Barbara on a remarkable roll, with both the year’s most durable crossover hit in “Feel It Still” and a reputation for powerful, nonstop live performances. On this Saturday in Santa Barbara between its two Sunday appearances at Coachella, the band was at its best, clearly happy and proud to be playing what it announced from the stage was its biggest gig ever. Weaving snippets of classic-rock covers into the undulating tapestry of its own sound, the band romped through more than a dozen songs in approximately 90 minutes, including “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” “Live in the Moment,” and “Atomic Man,” which it embellished with a fragment of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” The Beatles also got a lot of love from the band; excerpts from “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Hey Jude” swirled through longer arrangements of its original songs.
This tactic works for Portugal. The Man because of the way the group layers grooves on top of grooves in its own music, creating a comfy bed for its classic-rock allusions. It can get the whole crowd singing the “na-na-na, nas” from “Hey Jude” without ever losing its place in “Sleep Forever,” an arena-sized anthem from its 2011 release, In the Mountain in the Cloud. As for “Feel It Still,” the presentation was stripped down, swinging, and tantalizingly brief, especially given the song’s outsized impact on the group’s reputation. These musicians have been around long enough and have enough other great material not to have to milk anything, even the most endlessly repeatable, danceable hook of 2017.