What does osmosis, the Eye of Sauron, a heartbeat monitor and the default iTunes equalizer have in common? Not much, really, aside from resembling the shape-shifting backdrop and hallucinatory visuals looming overhead as Tame Impala blazed through a sold-out show at the Crystal Ballroom on Sunday. Fresh of the band’s Sasquatch gig, Perth’s flagship psychedelic rockers proved that the wavering, heavily textured sounds showcased on the their two albums could be reconstructed—rather flawlessly—in an atmospheric live setting such as the Crystal. Despite a solid debut, it was the band’s excellent sophomore album, Lonerism, that catapulted it further up festival bills and into the indie spotlight. And for good reason.
Tame Impala is an interesting band to watch, given its modern take on ‘60s inspired rock and constantly drifting experimentation. Saturated in floating synthesizers and aided seemingly by more effects pedals than the Beatles scored No. 1 singles, the group’s live set sounds just as artificial as its albums. It’s a bit of mindfuck watching frontman and guitarist Kevin Parker play, a kind of visual-audio disconnect in which the sounds he’s producing from his jet-black Rickenbacker don’t quite correspond visually to the chords and notes you’re seeing played onstage. The same could be said for the other four members of the band.
From Parker’s psychedelic crooning on “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” to the unforgettable muttering intro and backing beat of “Be Above It,” the band exhibited stoner-rock elegance, making up for its lack of stage presence with trippy visuals that Parker and the rest of the boys frequently honed in on. During “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind,” a wispy, keyboard-driven cut off the band’s first album, even featured a guitar solo in which Parker turned his back to the audience to fiddle with the resulting green soundwaves being displayed behind the band.
Though the show was laden with new and old tunes alike—such as the pulse-pounding “Elephant” and the spacey, Lennon-like “Desire Be Desire Go”—songs from their first EP trickled through the set. The scuzz-heavy, 10-minute rendition of “Glass Half Full of Wine” revealed a band that wasn’t afraid to deviate from its recorded material, while drummer Julien Barbagallo’s solo further pushed the band’s technical capabilities well beyond what was expected. Most people don’t normally rig the drumkit to produce synth-like effects in the manner Barbagallo does.
Although it would be great to see the band in a festival setting or a smaller venue in town, its appeal has skyrocketed since Lonerism, making Tame Impala’s past dates at places like the Doug Fir a thing of the past. Audience members were packed like sardines, yet welcoming and respective, producing deafening cheers and boisterous applause with the conclusion of every song. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for that guy to my right who would persistently punch people who walked in front of him. What a jerk.