Live Review: Tame Impala at Barrowland, Glasgow (08/09)

Words: Fraser McMillan.

The last time I saw an Australian rock band tear down The Barrowlands was when I witnessed Joel O’Keeffe running about half-naked with his AC/DC-worshipping group Airbourne. This time around it was a bit more of a restrained affair, but no less gripping for the audience. The wall of Marshall stacks was replaced with a projection screen displaying all manner of trippy offerings. The row of 18-wheeler headlamps was substituted for a modern lighting rig. The wild, frizzy-haired O’Keeffe replaced with the enigmatic Kevin Parker. You probably wouldn’t have caught Airbourne with a synth either. The only real similarity of the night was the famed Barrowland crowd, who jumped and moshed for just about every song of Tame Impala’s brilliant set.

To start the night’s proceedings, Tame brought along their one-time bassist and Pond frontman Nicholas Allbrook, who performed a solo set of his own material. Utilizing drum samples, loop pedals and various noise-boxes the somewhat androgynous musician generated the kind of massive sound a lot of bands would be jealous of. Washy guitar chords underpinned pained vocals and fat electronic beats thumped through the chests of the onlookers. Allbrook’s doped/awkward mannerisms were hard to ignore and he made a good impact on the mood of the crowd.

Tame Impala @ Barrowland, Glasgow.

Tame Impala @ Barrowland, Glasgow.

Opening their headline set with the newest single from ‘Currents’, the infectiously catchy ‘Let It Happen’, Tame Impala had the crowd jumping and yelling the bassline within seconds, setting the tone for rest of the night. A bit of a move away from their previous efforts, ‘Currents’ is a lot less guitar-focused and brings classic synthesizer sounds to the fore. This change in direction also brings less psychedelia and more hooks to the band’s repertoire, but the audience are still clearly loving it. The difference in the back catalogue keeps the set varied and interesting, proving Parker’s creative choice to be a wise one.

Mixing new favourites like ‘Cause I’m A Man’ with classics such as the foot-stomping anthem ‘Elephant’ and the sultry, sweeping ‘Mind Mischief’, the band kept the sweltering Glasgow crowd on their toes, letting the excitement dip only a few times throughout the night. The band and audience were both equally in awe of each other, Parker exclaiming, “You guys really like to get down!” and various other appraisals to the heaving mass.

Tame Impala Poster

The one complaint I would be tempted to make is that at times the sound of the band was almost identical to listening to one of their albums, but you can hardly complain when they sound that good. To hear in concert the fuzzy guitars, snappy snare drum and spacey analogue synths that Parker has captured so well on his records was a joy.

Closing out their set with the big chorus singalong ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ and the beautiful, psych-whirlpool of ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’, the band proved to all present that they are at the top of their game. Now that they are reaching mainstream notoriety, you do begin to wonder how long they can maintain their creative edge. Right now, however, they are leading the current crop of Australian rock music and that doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.

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