Tame Impala at Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL, May 15, 2015 | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Tame Impala

Tame Impala at Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL, May 15, 2015,

May 18, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Touring poses something of a dilemma for all introverted studio wizards. How exactly does one translate intensely personal visions to stage when capturing them on record is already difficult enough? Over the years, plenty of inward-looking legends have chosen to avoid the potential pitfalls associated with live music by simply opting out of performing altogether. For his part, however, Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker is favoring an approach ofit must be saidletting it happen.

Just what is that it? Rock stardom that doesn't require an "indie" qualifier is as good a guess as any, though we'll have to wait for the critical and commercial reception of Currents, Tame Impala's forthcoming full-length, to find out for certain. At the time of this sold-out date at Chicago's Riviera Theatre, though, it seemed to mean accepting a guru-like role as the center of an electro-lysergic spectacle.

After a brief instrumental intro, any questions about how a guy who rose to prominence on the strength of an album called Lonerism would respond to an ever-widening audience were answered by a sweeping take on the freshly released "Let It Happen." Shoeless and swaddled in a scarf, Parker went so far as to instigate a jubilant clap-along during the song's midsection. The performance of this oceanic synth epic would set the mood and theme of the night; outside the confines of the studio, Parker seemed fully capable of liberating himself from his well-documented perfectionism and settling into a take-it-as-it-comes groove with his ace touring band.

Cables were tripped over, goofy banter was frequent, and a jam or two went nowhere in particular. A blink-and-miss-it disco shimmy was (peculiarly) snuck into "Elephant," Parker's greatest outright guitar song. Was this a wry wink at the current fan debate surrounding Tame Impala's more danceable new material? Maybe, but whatever the case, it came off as loose, in-the-moment weirdness (incidentally, audience polarization was nowhere to be found on this night, as every song was greeted with roughly the same degree of elation).

While the set was short on selections from Currents (just "Let It Happen," "'Cause I'm a Man," and "Eventually"), Parker is comfortably finding ways to integrate his present obsessions into his past glories. Every breakdown was elongated, every release euphoric, the bottom-end dominated the mixing, and the connection between new and old compositions was made blissfully clear. 

Though the band played more tracks from Lonerism than any other release, the Currents songs felt like centerpieces. "'Cause I'm a Man" found Tame Impala's standard video projections (laser-guided paisley and fractal patterns) replaced with infrared images of the band-an appropriate enough visualization for a song that, in its live incarnation, took on an almost tactile dimension. Meanwhile, the engulfing bass of "Eventually" transformed silky funk-pop into gut-rumbling abstraction.

Yet set-ender "Apocalypse Dreams" towered over all that came before it; the vertigo induced here could perhaps be likened to the experience of standing on the top floor of a skyscraper that's in the process of being demolished. Though an encore (including "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards") followed, it was "Let It Happen" and "Apocalypse Dreams," songs that played like separate halves of the same dreamlike vision, which sent the most lasting reverberations into the night.

www.tameimpala.com




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David Rivera
May 18th 2015
6:22pm

Well written. I loved the disco drop during Elephant.