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Tame Impala and Mac DeMarco Made Red Rocks the Place to Be Last Night

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Last night, the town of Morrison, famous for the discovery of dinosaur bones and John Brisben Walker’s vision,  hosted another event that the thousands in attendance may come to consider historic: Tame Impala's first headlining show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Tame Impala, the genius project of Australian musician Kevin Parker, played the landmark venue to a sold-out, pulsating crowd, and was joined by gap-toothed goofball wizard Mac DeMarco, who opened the show.

Impala previously played Red Rocks six years ago, opening for MGMT. Parker reminisced about that show from the stage, recalling how special it was to all the bandmembers of Tame Impala at the time, and said they never could have imagined that they would be back six years later to headline a sold-out show of their own. This was my second time seeing Impala live; the first was a gig at the Ogden more than a year ago. This show, despite taking place at a large outdoor venue, was as seamless as the last one. 

Impala’s set was by far the best-sounding show I have witnessed at Red Rocks. The band and its hard-working crew have focused on the integrity of creating a stage show that is as close to listening to a studio album as possible. I have yet to see another band that puts as much effort into the structure of its sound and what audio engineers can accomplish behind the console.
Impala started its set with the first song off its latest album, Currents, titled "Let It Happen," the alluring, synth-driven ballad that could get even the most stubborn Generation-Xer out of his seat. The visual elements were beautifully choreographed to the music, an assortment of lights dancing in unison with bubbly pop-synth rhythms. As usual, behind Impala lay the image of a spectrogram, giving the idea that we, the crowd, had transcended into the fourth dimension, able to view sound visually. In the middle of "Let It Happen," a bushel of confetti was released into the open Morrison sky, trailing off over the crowd as if a colony of hungry, multi-colored bats had arisen to feed.

Impala ended its set with crowd favorite "Apocalypse Dreams" and then returned for two encores, including "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards," during which the audience sang every lyric ferociously. 

Check out the full concert slideshow.
Every step of the show was well thought through, including having opener Mac DeMarco start off the show. Although I only witnessed half of DeMarco’s set, due to the taxing journey from the Red Rocks parking lot to the lengthy line through security, DeMarco and his band held their own and kept the crowd entertained. After playing his own sold-out performance at the Ogden Theatre the night before, DeMarco and his band put on a real rock-and-roll show. 

DeMarco and guitarist Andy Boay’s witty banter engaged the crowd, and these fellas are perfect examples of pure rock-and-rollers. Covering Steely Dan’s "Reelin' in the Years," DeMarco and his band changed it into a hard-bodied metal variant, accompanied by a solo duel between DeMarco and Boay, in which they played their guitars behind their heads while taking turns kissing one another’s tummies.

Though the styles of music, stage presence and visualizations are completely different, DeMarco and Impala are equals in giving an audience its money’s worth. Both bands are worthy of such endeavors, and I am grateful to know there is such great diversity in the brilliance of the music, especially during an era of sterile digital confusion. Seeing Tame Impala play a sold-out show at the Ogden last year and now a sold-out show at Red Rocks is a very positive sign; one can only hope for the same for Mr. DeMarco. 

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