This ‘Tame Impala’ review was written by Stephen Butchard, a GIGsoup contributor
In the humid air of Glasgow’s Barrowlands, thick layers of heat and smoke rise through the beams of projectors which cover the stage in a haze of warped lights and psychedelic refractions. With a flamboyant flick, Kevin Parker tosses water at the sweaty crowd, as they catch their breath. “I’ve never had to cool off a crowd before…I feel like I’m saving your life!” he laughs, before clutching his guitar and stomping into the euphoric swagger of ‘Elephant’. The crowd hurtle towards the stage in time with the crunching bassline. Their visceral reaction makes the water dowsing feel more like a baptism than a cooling off, in a shared religious experience that showcases a band at the pinnacle of their powers.
Parker’s bedroom studio wizardry allowed him to craft three sonically rich, compositionally expansive psych-rock records by himself – everything down to the drums and mixing are helmed by him, suitably mirroring lyrical themes of isolation and personal transformation that hide within the woozy layers of effects and guitar fuzz.
Live, Tame Impala does its own transforming. Parker is joined by a full band, as well as a troop of engineers – dressed in lab coats no less – who ensure that the mad scientist’s lush sonic textures are tangible, by tweaking the countless pedals that surround them. The result is glorious.
The sprawling opener, ‘Let it happen’ crackles with tight drums and finger snaps that cut through warped layers of synths and a ragged guitar riff. The crowd remains giddy throughout all ten minutes, Julien Barbagallo’s propulsive drum playing heightened by the vibrant effects slathered onto it. Given the meticulous detail loaded into these songs, it’s impressive that the band manages to recreate the varied assortments of guitar tones and effects in such crisp colour. In large, it’s even more extravagant than on record. The loose breakdown of ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ intoxicates with its melting synth splashes, while newer cuts like ‘Reality in Motion’ pop with their decidedly beat-oriented direction.
At points, Parker’s vocals feel indistinct or muddied by the layered instrumentation, an effect that on record only added to the introspective themes. On stage, it makes for a few moments that drop in momentum, but the energetic crowd were on hand to fill in the gaps where Parker’s vocal felt unclear.
The contemplative quality of these songs is given a cathartic resonance in the live setting, elevating the lonely subject matter with hopeful ubiquity. The house lights illuminate the crowd on the refrain to ‘Why won’t they talk to me?’ and every face joins Parker in shouting it out loud. He seems taken aback by the response, Irn Bru based banter filling in a moment where he looks slightly lost for words. The crowd’s reaction makes it clear that Kevin Parker has become the rockstar he imagines himself being within the song’s lyrics, while his performance tonight ensures that it’s a title he fully deserves.