The Meticulous Magic of Tame Impala's Live Show

Tame Impala at a recent show in Spain.EXPAND
Tame Impala at a recent show in Spain.
Flickr user Alive87

The Ogden Theatre was packed on Saturday, and everyone was anxiously waiting to marvel at the psychedelic sounds of the subdued machine known as Tame Impala. Before the five-piece band walked the stage, its roadies took to work assembling every pedal, cable, and instrument to one another while conferring an intensive sound check on the system that helps conduct Tame Impala.

This was not your ordinary crew of roadies. These gentlemen were youthful, long-haired technicians, wearing white lab coats and approaching their tasks with an urgency and strict timing. I felt as if I were watching a studio session set up for the Beatles at Abbey Road, or possibly a deleted scene from Willie Wonka. The psychedelia set in swiftly. 

Besides the roadies, there were two audio engineers who worked an automated sound system full of effects, precisely triggered for perfection. They accompanied the Perth-born Tame Impala throughout its time traveling stage show.

The lighting engineer was as intriguing to watch as the show was. I have never been witness to a lighting engineer so into the job. It was as if he was conducting the band; all of the sound and visualization erupting from his mind and spilling out in front of his eyes.

There were two men stage right who seemed to work a variety of the supplied technology including, visualizations, effects, and musical gear mishaps. They were present for the entire show.

An enormous white cloth draped the back of the stage and hung lifeless during sound check. Tame Impala entered the stage and began with a new instrumental song. As soon as the band began to play, the white cloth exploded into a color spectrum, spiraling through dimensions, playfully imitating the audio, moving the mass of human flesh from an individual experience to a collective of matter, maneuvering together as one organic entity operated by color and sound.

There were few breaks throughout the set; Tame Impala’s discography became an orchestrated piece, equipped with mind-shattering crescendos that led to nightmarish pauses that quickly released into soothing synth pop sounds that bubbled in the aftermath.

Songs were reconstructed with momentary sequences and manipulated to fit all types of genres. During the song “Elephant,” the last four bars of the melody were molded into a synth driven dance sequence dropping the audience into a prism of sound, simultaneously sending a variety of textures throughout the encompassed crystal, which let off an assortment of elements that blended together, rollicking, painting a picture of a calm disaster.

They then transitioned from the synthesized dance sequence into a dub session that slowly oozed into an intense eight bar afro-beat break, then back into the dub.

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Tame Impala is excellent at pushing its audience to the brink of agony, climax and understanding. When the apex approaches, they shift gears leaving the audience wanting more. As soon as the dub session reached a point of understanding, Tame Impala transitioned back into “Elephant” for one bar, ending the journey abruptly but intentionally.

Tame Impala ended the set with a favorite, “Apocalypse Dreams,” full of rich textures, intelligent transitions, and impeccable songwriting, releasing the crowd back into an individual aspect with the feeling of euphoria but the audience wanted more. The packed house clapped and yelled, urging Tame Impala to play an encore.

Drummer Jay Watson played what Kevin Parker named (something to the effect of) “the Automatic…Compressor…Symphony, Orchestra, Number Three,” in which Watson drummed out percussive patterns while simultaneously playing a sampler that released amorphous synthesized chords into the atmosphere. Tame Impala left the night with the song “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” another crowd favorite.

You can hear a wide variety of influences in Tame Impala’s music, spreading across nearly every genre and era. Watching this collage of sound live is even greater than the music itself; you get to experience every song like it was new while being privy to all types of musical genres in an unexpected fluidity. Add visual effects, 808 subs, and clear audio sound system to this live setting and what you have is a psychedelic, symphonic masterpiece. Tame Impala will surely go into rock ‘n’ roll history as one of the greatest acts of the 2000s. Keep a look out for its latest album Currents, out July 17 on Interscope records. 


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