Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SHOW REVIEW: Tame Impala, Houston, 2/25

Tame Impala played for a sold-out room at Fitzgerald's last night and certainly met my high expectations. They were psychedelic and professional, at the same time. From what I witnessed, they definitely had any tendencies toward silly excesses or uncomfortable, 10+ minute, meandering, jam breakdowns beaten out of them, by heavy touring and their recent success. I say this because those problems are always a consideration when watching psych bands (new or old), live. Leave the 20 minute drum solos and flaming teeth riffs to people who are already dead. You are not breaking any new ground- thanks. ANYWAY- their playing was tight but breezy, accurately capturing the dreaminess of their music, in-studio.

I only caught a little bit of openers, The Growl, but I liked what I heard. They sounded to me like what Led Zeppelin might have become if, in addition to all the old Delta greats, they had somehow been influenced by modern music, like Jack White or punk rock.The front-man played better harmonica than anyone I've ever seen live (except for maybe Stevie Wonder) and absolutely crushed Son House's "John the Revelator".

Enter Tame Impala. A lot of the material played came off of "Lonerism", which delighted me because it was the album I was familiar with. Being the shallow music snob I am, it took seeing the 9.0 score in Pitchfork (which only happened in October) for me to take them more seriously than I had, in the past. So I was not all that familiar with anything off their first LP.

Luckily, the sound was incredible, last night. Given that we were at Fitzgerald's, I wasn't surprised, but all the levels were such that I could hear everything, from the impressively articulate bass playing to Kevin Parker's angelic, heavily phased vocals. This is key, given that on their albums, Parker's sunny, John Lennon, Brian Wilson-y cantation has just as much to do with how psychedelic the music feels as the space-rock guitars or warm, mock-analog synthesizers. Lighting was also phenomenal.

Some of the music I heard seemed to be piped-in, at least during the less integral parts (like the perpetual drum loop on "Be Above It). However, there were times when it seemed back-tracking or triggered sounds were used when the keyboard player could have probably done it live. And yeah, it did disappoint me just a little bit that that the aforementioned drum loop was not live. Yet, my complaints here aren't directed at any of the musicians' abilities. It was plain to see that they all knew what they were doing up there.

"Be Above It" and "Apocalypse Dreams" were the show's highlights. And even though the somewhat cheesy and ill-fitting hard-rock tune "Elephant" got repetitive really quickly, the bridge of the song, framed by possibly live, possibly back-tracked organ, was one of the nights coolest moments. It was neat to see one of the most dramatic parts of "Lonerism" acted out, in front of me, by some very promising young musicians. Seeing that this show sold out weeks ago, it is very possible that Tame Impala may never play another venue this size, again, for future Houston dates. I'm happy I was there.

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