NEW YORK, NY — Tame Impala has enjoyed a relatively high profile since the release of 2012’s landmark album, Lonerism, including a Grammy nomination and mountains of critical acclaim.
Despite this, the band had remained somewhat quiet in the past year. Though the group had no new release to peddle, it gave some lucky American cities the next best thing, scheduling a half-dozen November shows in the United States. By selling out two nights at New York City’s historic Beacon Theatre, Tame Impala proved it was ready to graduate from the smaller halls it had played during previous U.S. tours.
The brainchild of Perth, Australia, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, Tame Impala might be a one-man-show on its albums, but for concerts, Parker tours with four other musicians and is aided by memorable visual effects.
As the house lights dimmed for the start of the final Beacon performance, the quintet emerged onstage as a bizarre, distorted remix of Elton John’s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” played; this was punctuated by the chugging beat of “Be Above It,” the opening track off Lonerism.
Psychedelic images swirled and danced on a screen behind the band, bouncing in time with the music and forming a mesmerizing connection with the sound while Parker’s vocals echoed through the old theater.
From there, the band immediately launched into “Solitude Is Bliss,” a standout track from debut LP Innerspeaker, locking into a hypnotic groove as the audience shimmied and nodded along. The song’s familiar refrain (“You will never come close to how I feel”) seemed an apt description of the blissful vibe filling the Beacon at that particular moment.
Instrumental jam “Sestri Levante” followed, with band members Dominic Simper and Jay Watson each manning synths.
Pausing between songs, Parker gazed around the Beacon and remarked on the beauty of the venue, with its ornate wall and ceiling decorations, statues and prominent chandelier.
“We don’t usually play in places this nice,” he quipped.
Next, Parker unleashed fluttering waves of psychedelic guitar during the opening of “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?” By this time it had become obvious how perfect the sound mix in the venue was, with every vocal line, synth note and guitar tone clearly discernible.
Tame Impala’s music relies heavily on Parker’s deft use of effects pedals, but the result never comes off as gimmicky. Instead, the applied distortion and reverb create a dense wall of textures where each sonic ingredient seems completely on point.
Throughout the night, the band trotted out highlights from its catalog, including the T. Rex-inspired stomp of “Elephant,” space-rock of “Endors Toi,” and bouncy pop bliss of “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?”
For a man who drops phrases like “solitude” and “lonerism” in his work, you’d wonder if Parker’s live performances would be somewhat withdrawn affairs, with the artist struggling to connect with his audience.
Rather, the Beacon performance was a communal experience: nearly 3,000 attendees indulging in a complete sensory experience, with the trippy projected visuals acting like a sixth musician onstage.
“Half Full Glass Of Wine” was turned into a nine-minute, fuzzed-out jam, bassist Cam Avery and drummer Julien Barbagallo forming a tight rhythmic union as Parker and Simper traded guitar squalls. The group also flashed some impressive vocal harmonies during the tune.
“Apocalypse Dreams” proved an epic set closer, building to a crescendo before the group left the stage.
Returning for an encore, Parker and crew started with the popular “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and capped the evening with “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control.”
On the final song, as Parker sang, “I try to hold a good feeling, I just get one/Here it comes, there it goes,” he may well have been describing the temporary thrill provided by a brilliant concert experience. For the thousands who witnessed Tame Impala’s Beacon sets, that euphoric feeling will likely linger for far longer.