After the sold-out Friday night crowd in Neumos had filled out and the anticipation had sufficiently thickened, Tame Impala’s four members casually sauntered on stage. With their unkempt hair, slackened posture, and unassuming demeanor, they were the epitome of “chill,” and without saying a word they plowed through “It’s Not Meant To Be” and “Solitude Is Bliss,” two favorites off their acclaimed full-length debut Innerspeaker. They sounded amazing, but their somewhat blasé note-for-note recreations of the songs’ recorded versions got me thinking how they had been touring for a long time, and that we might be in for a breezy, no-surprises run-through of their album. Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong, as they ended up putting on a tour-de-force of psychedelic guitar rock, showing no signs of road-weariness and leaving just about everyone in the building nearly speechless in amazement.
Portland drums-and-guitar two-piece Brainstorm came on as a last-minute replacement for scheduled opener Stardeath and White Dwarves. They played a schizophrenic kind of tribal rock, full of heavy tom use, tropical guitar lines, hand clapping, and spontaneous yelping on the part of drummer Adam Baz. The duo were young, confident, and more than ready to step into the leadoff slot on short notice. After they finished Baz let the audience know that their 7” was for sale at the merch table along with toothbrushes. “Patrick’s dad is a dentist,” he explained.
While Tame Impala started off their set rather, dare I say, tamely, the rest of the night revolved around lengthy and impressive psychedelic jams they framed within the context of other Innerspeaker favorites such as “Lucidity,” “Expectation,” and “Desire Be Desire Go.” Some of these instrumental digressions were spacey and weightless while others were more intense and concentrated, featuring heavy, throbbing bass lines and distorted guitar riffs. Eventually they’d transition from jamming back into the song they had initially started playing, and lead man Kevin Parker’s airy voice would soar above the instrumentation as they brought the song to a satisfying end.
Tame Impala’s masterful use of various effects boxes and pedals might have been the most impressive part of the show. They were able to create fully textured, living-and-breathing psychedelic soundscapes through fuzzy, sonar-like pings, watery propulsions of sound, swelling and subsiding guitar tones, and reverb that wasn’t too overbearing. From one jam to the next they took the audience from feeling like they were floating through space, to off-roading through the outback on acid, to traversing the ocean floor in a some sort of supernatural sci-fi epic. They covered all the psychedelic bases.
After playing a heavenly cover of “Angel” by Massive Attack, Parker matter-of-factly told the audience that they didn’t know any encores, so they weren’t going to play one. Instead they finished off the set with an extended medley of parts of different songs, mostly from their EPs, amidst a series of building instrumental jams.
It’s always a treat when a band blows you away in a way that simply isn’t possible through headphones alone. Despite how laid-back and nonchalantly they carried themselves, it was clear that Tame Impala relished performing live, and that rocking out in front of an audience is something they take pride in. After we left I was informed that they were apparently even more comfortable on stage than I had thought: they played the entire show barefoot.