More cynically-minded Tame Impala fans might’ve walked out of the Manchester Albert Hall last night wondering what the point of all that was. More than a year and a half after second album Lonerism was released, the Australian psych-rock outfit played the first of a new 3 date tour that included one new instrumental song (which had already surfaced on YouTube many months beforehand), one new jam and an automatic synthesised drum solo/jam. ‘They toured the last album for over a year!’ they might cry, ‘what’s the point of another tour where they play nearly exclusively what is basically now old material?’ However, it was during the latter of the three new pieces that the essence of this tour can perhaps be summed up: after 3 or 4 minutes of incessant cheering and stamping, Kevin Parker and drummer Julien Barbagallo saunter back onstage. Kevin introduces the drum synthesiser automatique, and promptly lies down on the stage – beer in hand – to enjoy the band’s signature crazy synth sound coupled with the stunning back wall visuals. And that was it – the tour isn’t about new material, it’s simply about getting back out on stage and having a good time. And last night was wonderful.
I’ve never felt such a tangible anticipation in the air for any gig, and I’ve seen Robbie Williams in a stadium full of middle-aged women (not by choice – although he wasn’t actually that bad). Once it was clear that they should be coming on in the next five minutes or so, people were starting to cheer when a song finished on the PA and boo when another started… finally something we hadn’t heard three times already started and the lights dimmed. The converted church erupted as the band appeared on stage, and Kevin and keys player/guitarist Jay Watson set the evening’s tone (lighthearted with a generous sprinkling of absolute euphoria) by shooting bubble guns into the air to Elton John’s ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’, before slipping seamlessly into Lonerism opener ‘Be Above It’. After that, ‘Solitude Is Bliss’ spawned the first proper manic crowdsurfing mob of the night, and it would prove to be the first of many. Two more songs from Innerspeaker, ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?’, and ‘It Is Not Meant To Be’ prompting mass crowd sing-alongs and countless audience members pulled over the barrier for crowdsurfing (I’ve honestly never seen so many people taken away by security, neither have I seen the security so busy telling people to get off shoulders). There was a real festival atmosphere in the distinctly un-festivallike venue, minus perhaps only the flares. A heartfelt ‘Why Won’t They Talk To Me?’ offered some relative respite before the descent into utter chaos as – you guessed it – ‘Elephant’ hammered out through the Albert Hall. The dancefloor bounced as if it was a balcony and several smaller crowd members said they were lifted off their feet at times – this was no Libertines repeat though, as everywhere I looked I saw massive grins and wide eyes, not least from the band who seemed to be enjoying themselves even more than we were, Kevin practically showering us with compliments and comparing us to South Americans in terms of craziness.
If this was NME and we had one of those line charts at the bottom of the page, the ‘low point’ would probably be ‘Half Full Glass of Wine’. The first part of the song was riotous as usual but during the extended jam in the middle Kevin tried out a variation on his normal riff which didn’t really work. After ‘…Wine’ was, for me, the highlight of the gig. ‘Alter Ego’, from debut album Innerspeaker, is tweaked subtly but masterfully for the live set, with more emphasis on dynamics. While Kevin sings the first lines, the band dies down and leaves him quietly strumming the chords, then (‘waiting for everyone else a-ROUND’) the band blasts back into life. This happens several times throughout the song and the sheer power of these bursts back to life hit you square in the chest and, if you’ve connected yourself to the music enough, almost push you back a step. I was in a daze. I could feel the fluid vibrating in my legs. Seeing Tame Impala the first time felt a vaguely spiritual experience, but seeing them in an old church… I’m sure I went out-of-body at least twice. From making bedroom recordings ‘purely for his own enjoyment’ to selling out massive headline shows, supporting Arctic Monkeys and leaving audience members in a euphoric daze with one of the best-sounding live bands on Earth today, Kevin Parker has done something very special. An absolutely mindblowing gig.
Ciaran McQueen @_delareine