Show Review: Tame Impala at the Fillmore

Originally published on April 20, 2011

Tame Impala
April 18th at the Fillmore, San Francisco

A good-sized crowd headed over to the Fillmore on Monday night to experience the sounds of Australian psychedelic rock outfit Tame Impala. Fresh from playing Coachella, the buzz band delivered a vibrant performance of their 2010 debut full-length album, Innerspeaker. Tame Impala has been on an extensive world tour since the release of their album, gaining many fans and playing sold out shows across North America and Europe. Their first headlining show in San Francisco last December sold out the Independent, so they were bumped up to play a higher capacity venue this time around. They rose to the occasion and had the whole audience singing and swaying along with their dreamy reverberating music.

The band Yuck opened for Tame Impala, a group with members from London, New Jersey, and Hiroshima. I had read a few reviews before seeing the band that compared them to Dinosaur Jr. orPavement, and critics hail them as a band leading the way for a grunge or shoegaze revival. I only caught the last few songs of their set, and at least from that experience, I felt like the bandseemed underwhelmed about performing their guitar-heavy tracks that night. Maybe their flat effect is just part of the nature of being in a grunge-conscious band, but everything they did seemed to be in slow motion. They ended their show in a confusing way, as they left their last song in a droning feedback loop and slowly walked off the stage while the overhead lights were still flashing. The crowd seemed unsure as to whether it was the last song, and it only became apparent when the house lights came on a minute later. The audience seemed to do a collective shrug and headed to the bar to gear up for a hopefully more energetic headlining act.

Tame Impala came on stage, and elevated the mood right away. They record as a three-piece, but brought along an extra guitarist on tour to re-create their multiple guitar riffs that weave in and out of each other. Their audio output was hooked up to a screen showing an animated circle that expanded and warped in unison with a drumbeat or guitar strum. It was a neat visual effect and fit well with their trippy psychedelic sound. All of Tame Impala’s songs make extensive use of guitar effects pedals, and this translated very well to their live performance. When playing the intro to “Solitude is Bliss”, the echoing notes from frontman Kevin Parker’s guitar floated out over the crowd, creating a spaced out atmosphere. His riffs were roped back in by drummer Jay Watson, whose constant big beat drumming style complemented the wistful guitar playing perfectly. Watson’s drumming stood out to me because his rhythms often correlated with the notes of the melody, which added an additional element of movement within the song instead of just having a straightforward beat to keep time. In other parts of the show he mixed it up by playing drum fills in between every guitar riff, which also served to build out Tame Impala’s songs and make them more interesting to listen to.

Tame Impala essentially performed most all of Innerspeaker at the Fillmore, as their follow up album with new material has not yet been fully recorded. Some of my favorite songs from the night were “Lucidity”, “Alter Ego”, and “It’s Not Meant to Be”. The guitar parts, vocals, and keys on “It’s Not Meant to Be” were played in unison and all slurred together, creating a very cool effect. The flanging guitar melted with Parker’s voice and sounded surreal. “Jeremy’s Storm”, a long instrumental piece, was great to hear live. The rhythms and melodies changed so often while building and morphing, and you go on a musical journey while getting caught up in the song. The band played a few more jams that expanded on their recorded songs with more solos and drum breakdowns. Before ending the set, Watson apologized and said, “Sorry, this is the last song”, and they finished the show without an encore. I found that to be a little strange, as the concert ended before 10:30, and they left the crowd chanting for another song with no follow-through. Other than that, Tame Impala played a solid set that the audience no doubt had a great time listening to, and many happy people were singing their favorite songs they had heard that night on the way out of the venue.


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