The Aragon Ballroom hosted a JBTV Alum double header this past Friday night, with a sold out show from Portugal. The Man and Twin Peaks.
The evening kicked off at 7:30PM sharp, with hometown heroes Twin Peaks hitting the stage as the crowd still filed into the massive Uptown ballroom. Although they’ve dominated the DIY scene in Chicago and worked their way up to selling out Pilsen’s Thalia Hall for three nights in a row, Twin Peaks had actually never played on the Aragon stage prior to this performance. “This place is ridiculous. I feel like we’re playing in a small Italian village,” said singer and guitarist Clay Frankel as he surveyed the painted ceiling boasting a night-time sky theme and the venue’s regal balcony fixtures that resemble a castle. In addition to the witty banter that the five piece dished out between songs, the Chicago natives quickly conquered the huge venue with their buoyant stage presence and cohesive performance. As they played, the band fed off one another’s energy, keeping the crowd engaged as they moved around the stage and threw their bodies into the music. Joining the band, local outfit Ohmme provided backing vocals on some songs, and a horns section also joined in on select tunes, providing another enticing facet to the show.
Their setlist featured Twin Peaks staples like “Holding Roses” and “Boomers” from the earlier parts of their extensive catalog, but they also mixed in some of their newest singles as well. In 2017, the band decided to forgo releasing a full album and instead delivered their fans a series of double singles, which they deemed the Sweet ‘17 Singles. Just this past week, Twin Peaks released a compilation LP of all the singles, and their set featured “Tossing Tears,” “Blue Coupe,” and “In The Meadow” from the series. Each of those singles, like the majority of the Twin Peaks song pool, have a completely different sound, diving into different sonic territory. The band also keeps a unique sound by having four out of five members take turns singing lead on their tracks.
By the time Twin Peaks’ set came to an end, any pocket of space that had been there at the beginning of their set was now filled with fans eager for Portugal. The Man. The momentum had kept building throughout Twin Peaks’ show, and the room buzzed as the stage was set for the evening’s headliners. Further escalating the anticipation, Portugal. The Man made an earth shaking entrance, literally. At 8:45, the lights had dimmed and a bass-heavy, floor-shaking song filled the house speakers to tease the set’s start, which was followed up and juxtaposed by the crooning tune “Unchained Melody.” Finally, after the two-song tease, the band took the stage, backed by a massive screen with the words “APPLAUSE” projected onto it. The crowd obliged and lost their minds in excitement, buckling up for the next 90 minutes.
Following the instructions to applause, the on-stage screen then read another message; “We are not very good at stage banter, so tonight’s performance will feature slogans written by our management. Thank you for your continued understanding.” True to their word, the set that followed featured very little talking or banter between songs, but it never lacked in energy or failed to engage the crowd. Once the message on the screen faded, trippy visuals and colorful lights took their place, visually stimulating the crowd and adding another dynamic layer to the show’s production. While the lighting and images definitely enhanced the show, Portugal. The Man could have easily kept the crowd just as entertained with their stellar musicianship and magnificent execution of their records.
The setlist contained a fair amount of Portugal. The Man’s 2017 record Woodstock sprinkled in throughout some of their other most popular tracks. Easily Woodstock’s most successful track “Feel It Still,” which has been played on Top 40 radio across the country, received a warm welcome from the crowd. The band teased the song with a reworked live arrangement, extending the song’s introduction to build up suspense. The intricate arrangements and unique live versions remained a common theme of the night; with most songs blending into one another with flawlessly smooth transitions. Portugal. The Man also kept their audience on their toes by dipping into different sonic flavors; some songs, like “Sea of Air” maintained a light, sing-songy mood, while other songs would have the band cranking up the volume and going off on full jam sessions. There was never a dull moment during their show because the band managed to carefully craft a set that highlighted their best songs, like the crowd favorites of “Modern Jesus” and “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” The night ended with a rumble of cheers and appreciative applause after the band played “Holy Roller [Hallelujah].”
With the fully immersive production and the way that the band brings their music to life on the stage, this tour is one that can’t be missed. Check out the rest of Portugal. The Man’s upcoming tour dates here.