The impala is a swift and sleek creature that has ultimately found itself endangered, much like rock ‘n’ roll these days. It makes up the latter half of Tame Impala’s name, the former creatively and aptly chosen by this group of mellowed out lads from down under. Hailing from the Western Australian town of Perth, whom you may or may not know is also home to INXS, Tame Impala bring forth sort of a revival of psychedelic rock, packaging it in a fresh, edgy and dance provoking product that has thwarted them to rising acclaim and continues to generate buzz amid the music world while toeing the line between pop and psych rock. Vocally and instrumentally speaking, the band seems to naturally draw off late-Beatles work, with lead singer Kevin Parker’s thin falsetto vocals frequently compared to that of the late John Lennon. Their San Francisco appearance sold out fairly early on and was a highly anticipated date on the calendar of Bay Area music fans. Fittingly performing at the legendary Fillmore, who is no stranger to psychedelia, would Tame Impala deliver a night worth of causing Bill Graham to look down with a nodding grin?
Helping kick off the evening were The Amazing, a Swedish band who also liken to psychedelic sounds much like their headlining companions. However, where Tame Impala move towards a more pop direction, The Amazing lean on a more jazz based influence of music. Nonetheless, they seemed to provide an enchanting performance made up of soft drawn out guitar notes, minimalist drumming, and groovy bass that almost reminded me of fellow Swede Jose Gonzalez and his Zero 7 counterparts. The crowd was amusingly contrasting, with some quite older concert veterans present along with fresh faced teenagers. As the band gently rolled through their opening set, it seemed as though they had everyone’s full attention and one could not help notice people’s swaying bodies as the drummer controlled the tempo with his jazzy drum brushes. The lead guitarist put forth a quite simplistic approach in the way he achieved sound out of his guitar, carefully picking each string to ring out in a blissfully beautiful harmony while the rest of the band jammed intently. Dialogue was replaced with an environment of ambiance, With some vintage keyboard backing thrown in, we definitely had something great on our hands. The band ended on a strong slow building number and exited to rousing applause, humbly smiling and waving to the now already full auditorium.
By the time Tame Impala tardily took stage, the already dense crowd became even more so as stragglers scrambled for a ideal vantage point of perhaps a band most have not yet seen live. Dense plumes of smokey haze filled the room as the band walked out to an ovation, with not one note having been played yet. They opened with the first song off their new album, Lonerism, that seemed to drive the audience into a frenzy, as the repetitive drum tracks and wah guitar provided a sturdy introduction into the night’s schedule. In fact, pretty much anything the band did, much less breathe, would push fans to screaming in euphoria. “Solitude is Bliss” would be no different – a catchy chorus filled track that provides a deeper look into the loneliness theme of the newest record.
The boys quintessentially looked rock ‘n’ roll, if not interesting. Drummer Julien Barbagallo could have easily doubled as a character from essentially any movie set in biblical times, and bassist Nick Allbrook, complete with a McCartney bass, shares a stark resemblance of another Nick, British folk hero Nick Drake. You could even say guitarist Dominic Simper to be a young David Gilmour, but musically or physically it didn’t matter, the audience approval was high and the band continued to deliver. Sporadically instrumental tug of wars between synths, strings and drums likened to the sounds of some of they key scenes in Dirty Harry. The crowd, entrenched in the groove pumping melodies hitting them in faces, continues to become more and more mobile, wilder and wilder, and eventually a quasi mosh pit ran its course in the middle of the floor.
Lead singer Kevin Parker’s seemed a bit tonally high at times, not in an American Idol first round contestant way, but more so due to how studio time tends to smooth and layer things in a more presentable fasion on recordings. Not to take away from him however, his hypnotic vocals fit the music perfectly and it is a voice unique in nature but perhaps challenging to properly capture and convey live. On some songs this was more apparent, but on others and on most, Mr. Parker had no trouble laying down lyrics at all, and brilliantly so. The consistency should improve with experience over time and hey, this group is rather young and has achieved much in a short span. Playing in front a simple yet captivating screen of morphing graphs, Kevin took a break in between songs to pay homage to The Fillmore, humbly sharing his disbelief that the group was actually playing in such a legendary venue. He wasted no time before busting back into echoes of floating sound, including the edgy number, “Elephant.”
The band chose to end their set with “Apocalypse Dreams”, a melodically addictive tune that is my personally locked vote for song of the year. Leaving the stage to a deafening applause, Tame Impala returned for a one song encore, taking us back to their first and self-titled debut EP and playing “Half Glass Full of Wine”. Methodically churning into a slow building Doors-like trance, I could not stop but take stock into how blissfully good I felt. Perhaps I was chemically induced? I think not, the perfectly executed layers of sound being dished out were reason enough. After reaching peak crescendo, Kevin fell to the ground as if exorcised from demons, got up and waved goodbye to the overly pleased masses. Fans dispersed enthralled and encouraged with the conclusion that music like this still exists, and in fact, is thriving. Tame Impala’s next visit will be most welcomed.
Be Above It
Solitude Is Bliss
It Is Not Meant to Be
Music to Walk Home By
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
Desire Be Desire Go
Half Full Glass of Wine