Taking the stage in all his barefooted glory, Tame impala frontman Kevin Parker possesses a certain unassuming awkwardness about him that belies the stereotypical image of a rock star. Soon thereafter, the opening riffs of one of my favorite tracks of his band’s, Innerspeaker’s “Solitude Is Bliss,” fills the venue, and despite having caught the band recently at last April’s Coachella, I’m awed.
Tame Impala isn’t so much a band as it is Kevin Parker’s musical vision. Under that mane of unkempt shoulder-length hair, Parker possesses a musical aptitude that has proven itself with two strong studio releases, Innerspeaker and 2012’s critically beloved Lonerism. Although resigned to the guitar and lead vocals on stage, Parker has written and recorded pretty much every track on both of his albums; every instrument you hear on the albums is played by him. Perhaps that’s why the departure of live bassist Nick Allbrook only days earlier seemingly had no affect on the band’s sound.
Like last April’s set at Coachella, Tame Impala opened with Innerspeaker’s dreamy “Solitude Is Bliss,” a favorite of mine. Swirls of green projected behind the band accentuated the psychedelic nature of the track perfectly. From there they went into “Endors Toi” and steadily maintained the set’s ethereal feel until the trademark grinding guitar of Lonerism’s lead single, “Elephant,” filled the venue. Expectantly, everyone went crazy.
The ever-lovely “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” tranquilly soothed the crowd following the rowdiness, while the trippy, shifting patterns of “Keep On Lying” mesmerized them. The jam-band sound of “Be Above It” proved to be another crowd favorite, but my personal favorite track was “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind,” which was accompanied by some seriously trippy, swirling, multi-colored fractals that made me question my sobriety despite the fact that I hadn’t imbibed any alcohol whatsoever.
An extended version of “Half Full Glass Of Wine” rounded out the first set. The customary encore set comprised a drum solo and another extended track, this time “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control.”
Similar to their set at Coachella 2013, I left Tame Impala’s set ruminating on how much they had improved live (I had seen them previously in 2011, and despite enjoying the set, I remember feeling slightly underwhelmed). Although much of this is due to the release of Lonerism, which has provided a much-needed dose of variety in their sound, they also generally look and sound more confident on stage now.
Also of note is their visual setup. It’s on the relatively minimal side with little more than a sole projector, but the visuals that thing produces are probably the closest you can come to tripping while sober. They tie in with their respective songs beautifully and truly do enhance the concertgoer’s experience.
Although Tame Impala looked and sounded great, I admittedly preferred the comparative brevity of their Coachella set as the drawn-out jam band sound didn’t jive quite as well with me following a full 8-hour day at work and a 2-hour commute from Ventura County to Pomona. There were fleeting moments in their set that, to me, were a bit too drawn out, but I’m more apt to blame the events that preceded the show than the band itself.
Tame Impala is undeniably one of the hottest bands to come out of Australia and a true pioneer in a musical era that has been lacking good ol’ psychedelic rock. If you’re into that and haven’t caught one of their shows, it’s in your best interest to fix that ASAP.
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