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Minus the Bear / Portugal. The Man

Minus the Bear / Portugal. The Man: live in Philadelphialive in Philadelphia (2008)
Suicide Squeeze Records

Reviewer Rating: 4


Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Minus the Bear played yet another packed TLA show April 8, this time with fellow prog-rockers Portugal. The Man and new kids on the block Elk. The night was spaced out -- three bands in about three-and-a-half hours -- but fun nonetheless. It got off to a ho-hum start with Elk, a band clearly influen.


Minus the Bear played yet another packed TLA show April 8, this time with fellow prog-rockers Portugal. The Man and new kids on the block Elk. The night was spaced out -- three bands in about three-and-a-half hours -- but fun nonetheless. It got off to a ho-hum start with Elk, a band clearly influenced by mid-period Incubus. While not bad per se, the group's songs certainly don't top Morning View. Once Portugal. The Man took over, though, it was pure headbanging glory and positive vibes.

Frontman/guitarist John Gourley looked pretty gosh darn cool surrounded by thick smoke and red lights, and the setup suited the red-hot grooves he and his band laid down. The band's core trio was augmented by additional keyboard and auxiliary percussion players, and the sound was surprisingly clear, with each instrument's contribution vividly hitting the ears.

While it makes sense for Portugal. The Man and Minus the Bear to tour together, the two are as different as fire and ice. Where MtB's live performances are strong but generally coldly efficient, Portugal. The Man gives off great sonic warmth. The group's soulful vocals and '60s garage rock guitars put the band in the pantheon of the best of classic rock, minus the whole "being a contemporary band" thing. But man are these guys old-school heavy -- blues-influenced and powerful, Portugal. The Man put on the best performance of the night.

If I were to criticize ‚??em, though, (which I'm about to. Check it), Portugal's lengthy improvisations sometimes got a bit stale. While the guys have solid chops, their solos tend to be based around simple rhythms. So while it's cool hearing Gourley rock out, that simplistic waltz time beat the rest of the band is playing gets tedious. It's a small complaint though, because Portugal. The Man is still one groovy group with some tasty tunes.

By comparison, Minus the Bear's live set felt flatter than Portugal. The Man's. The band's prog-surf rock still conjures up dance marathons live, but the feeling is noticeably less energetic. It's technically sound, another way of saying "mechanical."

Still, there's no stopping tunes like "Dr. L'Ling" or "Burying Luck" off of last year's awesome Planet of Ice. The new material sounds great live. It was the older tracks, though, that left a better impression. While the Planet of Ice tunes were CD-sound quality, the band has started tweaking their back catalogue for a live setting, providing new angles for old tunes. Some of these adjustments were small ("Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister" was only slightly different), but the band did serve up a great new version of Menos el Oso's "Pachuca Sunrise." Electronics wiz Alex Rose whipped out a beat similar to the Alias remix of "Pachuca Sunrise" from Interpretaciones del Oso before drummer Erin Tate kicked things back into the umpteenth gear. One Planet of Ice track, "Ice Monster," did get a new take, thanks to Portugal. The Man.

Two words: Drum circle.

Hearing two great bands jam out a quality tune in a lively manner suited the set well, and it would be nice to see Minus the Bear cut loose like this more often. I love wood blocks, bongos and big goofy grins, and these two bands served ‚??em up with a side of mustache.

After a 70-minute-ish set and a quick three-song encore, Minus the Bear bowed out to applause. It was a good night overall, but I can't help but feel like Minus the Bear needs to step up their live game if they're going to hit up Philadelphia so frequently. As for Portugal. The Man‚?¶so good! Oh, and Elk. Yeah, you guys need to either break up or be less blatantly unoriginal.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
icapped2pac (April 17, 2008)

Shit, I forgot they came to Ann Arbor. That's actually closer to me. I must have not planned to go because it was a weeknight and I'm using almost all my available vacation time to go see Polar Bear Club next Friday. I would've found some way though if I knew ahead of time they were gonna play that song.

Downtown (April 16, 2008)

caught this show in Ann Arbor when they came around.

Portugal The Man always brings a pretty solid live show, i've watched them around 6 or so times and have enjoyed each and every one of them.

Minus The Bear has always sounded great live, but their performance just leaves you wanting more. It doesn't help when the band looks bored with the songs they're playing.

I think that's the one thing Portugal always does well when they play, they look like they're having the best time ever each night I have seen them. Good crowd, shitty crowd, or what have you.

nocigar (April 16, 2008)

yeah, they skipped the D..but they were at Ann Arbor. They put on a great show but The Big Sleep was the worst band I've ever seen live.

damnitsderek (April 15, 2008)

Scott: You're probably right. To be honest, Seattle crowds in general are full of boring hipster assholes (at shows along the lines of MTB, that is). I'm always right up front, dancing it up and slappin' five with anyone willing to throw a hand up, and I can't begin to describe some of the hate that gets thrown my way during/after a MTB set. Whether it be dirty looks or thowing elbows, some people seem to think that standing still with their arms crossed is the only appropriate way to enjoy a show.

I'm with you about the Seattle crowd. So many shows I've been to are just lauded with those types of kids. There was one guy at the AWS show at Studio Seven in December who just kept running around flailing his arms and smacking people in the back of the head. Not exactly a hipster, but an asshole all the same.

Also, after the MTB show on the 8th, I'm gonna ask you for a setlist-I have to miss it because of school/work.

icapped2pac (April 15, 2008)

God DAMNIT. They're playing "Rob's Alien"? That might be my favorite song by them, and it's way slower than what you would normally expect in a live set. I'm so jealous. A couple of my friends saw them last night in G-Rap(ids) and said they were incredible. It's too bad they skipped the D this time around.

fattony (April 15, 2008)

Scott: You're probably right. To be honest, Seattle crowds in general are full of boring hipster assholes (at shows along the lines of MTB, that is). I'm always right up front, dancing it up and slappin' five with anyone willing to throw a hand up, and I can't begin to describe some of the hate that gets thrown my way during/after a MTB set. Whether it be dirty looks or thowing elbows, some people seem to think that standing still with their arms crossed is the only appropriate way to enjoy a show.

inagreendase (April 15, 2008)

I had to skip this and Murder by Death last weekend or face going into the city (1:10 each way) 5 out of 6 days.

I'm sorta bummed now.

ForgetThisPlace (April 15, 2008)

I'm so pissed I missed this show! Goddamn not being able to get to Philly on a Tuesday night.

canaandrumzz (April 15, 2008)

Also I'd never heard them play "rob's alien" before live so it was really exciting to hear that. Easily my second favorite song of theirs behind "Pachuca Sunrise".

maverick (April 15, 2008)

If Minus The Bear doesn't get into their live performance in front of you, that probably means your crowd is on the dead side. MTB shows in Cleveland are always Party Town USA, and this past Sunday was no exception.

Here's what they played, broken down by album:

This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic - Lemurs, Man, Lemurs
Highly Refined Pirates - Thanks For The Killer Game Of Crisco Twister, Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse, We Are Not A Football Team
They Make Beer Commercials Like This - I'm Totally Not Down With Rob's Alien
Menos El Oso - Memphis & 53rd, The Fix, Pachucha Sunrise, Fulfill The Dream
Planet Of Ice - Burying Luck, Ice Monster, Knights, White Mystery, Dr. L'Ling, Part 2, Throwin' Shapes, Double Vision Quest

Coming from someone who's seen this band about 15 times in the past four years, this was easily in the top tier of performances. The setlist was insane -- in all the times I've seen them, I don't think I have ever seen them play "I'm Totally Not Down With Rob's Alien," "We Are Not A Football Team" and "Lemurs, Man, Lemurs" -- dudes really dug deep. Top notch.

-Scott

ninjaslasher (April 15, 2008)

It is a shame that I missed this. I have seen Portugal. The Man 3 seperate times and have enjoyed them on every occasion. An odd catchy band. Minus The Bear is an interesting band that I have yet to see live. I wish I would have went.

-Ninja

When is Avail playing again dammit?!? Off topic but that is the show I really want to go to(again). Hah.

canaandrumzz (April 15, 2008)

I went to this in Baltimore and I feel like the drummer kept playing behind the beat on some of the songs while the rest of the band was on top. This was the fourth time I've seen them and the first time that I've heard anything that wasn't technically perfect. I could figure out what was up. Maybe the drummer was drunk and hearing things slower. It about ruined their performance of Pachuca Sunrise because the drums were so far behind. Other than that it was awesome as usual. And they usually always find a way to bring up the other bands on stage with them at some point.

fattony (April 15, 2008)

I've seen Minus The Bear live more times than I can count and I absolutely adore them, but you nailed it. The band just doesn't get into their own live performances. They perform their songs nearly perfectly, but they do so without looking like they're having a good time. Like a battered housewife, I keep going back for more. Can't wait for this tour to roll through Seattle soon.

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