Is there a less psychedelic experience than being drenched by a pint of warm fluid whose provenance it would be best not to dwell on?
That was my fate during Tame Impala’s set at Alexandra Palace. Like the two nights they played at the 10,000-capacity venue, the liquid projectile marked the Australian band’s entry into the upper tier of mainstream alternative rock. At that moment it felt less like an elevation than a descent.
The gig, the second of two at the north London venue, opened with a powerful statement of their new status. Led by mainman Kevin Parker, they played a massively beefed-up version of “Let It Happen”, the first track of their latest album Currents. Distorted psych-rock guitars melded with a lithe synthesiser rhythm, building towards a big peak and an explosion of confetti. It was ideal for the expansive spaces they now command, a far cry from the introspective style of old.
Tame Impala have always been Parker’s one-man project, expanding outwards from the reveries of 2010’s InnerSpeaker and 2012’s follow-up Lonerism. Back then Parker’s songs were caught between inertia and ambition, a tension expressed by the interaction of washed-out vocals, swirling layers of guitar and driving drums. The way touring drummer Jay Watson brought “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” to the boil tonight typified the style.
A deliberate juxtaposition at the heart of the set showed how far Parker has moved on with Currents, a top five hit in the US and UK. It was between the prehistoric glam-rock stomp of Lonerism’s “Elephant”, which ended with a wild drum solo, and the smooth keyboard pulse of new song “Yes I’m Changing”, for which Parker abandoned his guitar and pedal effects to perambulate the stage with a microphone, clutched with both hands as though for dear life.
It is a bold evolution. But shorn of the amplification that transformed “Let It Happen” at the start of the set, it also brought about a lull in the action. That was when I was drenched: the “Tarzans” in big rock audiences (as Parker once labelled them) get bored easily. Pleasing them is one of his duties now. It can be done — a rousing finale with “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” showed that — it’s just a shame that it has to be done.
World tour continues to September, tameimpala.com