Report: Tame Impala, Melbourne 2012

Report: Tame Impala, Melbourne 2012

Tame Impala
The Forum, Melbourne
Wednesday, December 5th, 2012.

The faux-night sky is lit up bright tonight.

Silvery glittering dots of stars speckle the cobalt expanse of The Forum’s ceiling; their pale glimmer washing down over a packed house of eager punters set before a dimly lit stage. The latter casts a particularly imposing figure, seemingly carved into a giant rocky façade and lavishly dotted with grand, archaic relics -- steep marble columns, statues of muscular sentinels standing proudly to attention, cherubs plucking delicately at the strings of harps. Aesthetically, it all harks back to an era of classicism; in that way, it’s perfectly appropriate tonight. Because Kevin Parker and his Tame Impala work in a similar capacity. But rather than invoking the likes of Plato, Socrates or Leibniz, this evening is indebted to ‘classical’ luminaries Page, Sabbath and Lennon.

At first glance, a Modular-signed band from Perth in 2012 probably shouldn’t sit too comfortably alongside those kinds of names, but somehow Parker manages to give those comparisons traction. It’s because Tame Impala are more than just re-hash artists, more than a Retread Zeppelin, especially in the wake of their recently released Lonerism. Rather than drearily trudging along in the shadows of their celebrated heroes, or lazily hitting upon the genre’s established generic truisms—long hair, tight flares, self indulgent guitar solos, swathes of reverb, that honey sludge fuzz of distortion—they revel in the kind of experimental ethos that spawned psychedelic rock in the first place. Parker embraces modernity through a lovingly wistful veil of history, like an artificially sepia-toned tinged Instagram photo.

Set in front of a giant lilac screen obscured by milky plumes of smoke that dance up from either side of the stage, Parker slinks out into the purple haze and strikes the opening chords of ‘Endors Toi’. When that syrupy synthesizer meets the modulated arpeggios above Parker’s flange-filtered strums, it perfectly enunciates the way Tame Impala balance the sonic potentials of modern soundscapes, with the nostalgic warmth of that celebrated acid-trip sound. For a moment, it almost hits on electronica. From here Parker continues to languidly twang at his Rickenbacker, exuding both the carefree cool of his laidback strums and the opening riff of ‘Solitude Is Bliss’. The crowd agreeably follow the lead of this unruffled pied piper and sway along to every bong-rattling thud of the bass drum, each booming cadence a lumbering footstep to prove that the hulking dinosaur of 60’s & 70’s rock is alive and well today.

‘Solitude Is Bliss’ proves not only a hit with the crowd, but also apparently Parker’s onstage mantra. Moving through ‘It’s Not Meant To Be’, he interacts minimally, frequently turning his back between songs, perhaps consumed by the dreamy ocean of reverb that pour from the valve amps stacked on stage.  Finally, after four or five songs, an address: ‘How’s everyone going?’, he shyly posits. ‘Did you catch The Growl before? They fucking rock.’ ‘Music To Walk Home By’ follows, before the heavy buzz of ‘Elephant’ plods its way to the fore. Half way through the track, the band deviate into an extended experimental free-form jazz suite, as drummer Julien Barbagallo cuts loose with a Bonham-inspired percussion solo -- the colossal elephantine Impala having apparently stopped to slurp at an LSD-laced waterhole. It proves a handy segue though, as they then move to float up from the guttural riffage of ‘Elephant’ to amble upon the saccharine cloud that is ‘It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’. Cue sing-along en masse.

That airy reverie doesn’t linger long though. Raspy Innerspeaker duo ‘Lucidity’ and ‘Alter Ego’ bring both energy and tempo back up, although the crowd tonight noticeably never really shift from first gear. Not even a polished sojourn through the sun-tinged pastures of ‘Mind Mischief’, the rubbery gloss of ‘Why Won’t You Wake Up Your Mind’; the jangling ‘Desire Be, Desire Go’, or an extended ‘Half Glass Full Of Wine Encore’ manage to rouse the majority from their dreamy trance.

But even if the heads are merely nodding more than all-out banging tonight, it seems to matter little. Because Tame Impala manage to shake psych-rock from the petrified stasis it’s apparently been frozen in for the better part of 40 years. And when a Modular-signed band from Perth in 2012 can be validly compared to, and sit relatively comfortably alongside names like Page, Sabbath and Lennon—shit, if they can even sit comfortably within a 10km radius of those names—then the faux-night sky’s the limit. 

Elliott Grigg

(Photos: CC Hua)

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