Mark Runyon | ConcertTour.org
I’ve had Tame Impala’s show at the Tabernacle dog eared on my calendar for quite some time. Their latest album Lonerism sits right alongside Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and Dawe’s Nothing is Wrong as my addiction discs for the first half of 2013. Lonerism is a beautiful and ambitious effort, employing psychedelic rock that seems plucked right out of the late-60s. Its how I would have imagined the Beatles evolving during their experimental phase had the band’s life not been cut short. The biggest question that weighed heavy on my mind was how these mystical soundscapes would translate to a live show.
The curiously named band hails from Perth, Australia and they first made the indie rock world take notice with the release of their debut effort Innerspeaker in 2010. They won the J Award, Australia’s album of the year, for their effort and picked up a second honor for Lonerism. The band is the only two-time award winner. Both Rolling Stone and NME declared Lonerism their album of the year. The critics tend to wrap themselves up in Tame Impala and wallow around in its melodies like it was cat nip.
It was a little hard to know that Tame Impala had hit the stage because the band employed minimal lighting for their set. The can lights high above the stage etched out silhouettes of the band as they launched into their set with “Led Zeppelin.” I half expected some decadent light display similar to Phoenix given the tempo and their musical disposition. Trying to sift the members out from the shadows was an unwelcomed part of the evening.
On Lonerism, Tame Impala’s sound is spacey and unrolls like its approaching beneath a deep fog. What keeps the sound from falling into laziness and lethargy is its tightness and focus. Sadly, that was what was lacking during their live set Monday night. Songs seemed to drift and get caught up in themselves. Everything was dripping in synth to the point of distraction.
The band served up tracks from both Innerspeaker and Lonerism in their expansive 19-song set. The thumping of “Elephant” got the crowd temporarily hopping. It makes you wonder how many of the faithful discovered the band through the Blackberry Z10 commercial? Its a curious phenomenon. A decade ago, bands like the Rolling Stones and R.E.M. were lambasted as sell outs when their songs were featured in major marketing promotions. Today, indie bands fight tooth and nail for that choice placement that has the power to launch a career.
The band seemed to be losing the audience as the evening wore on. The talking between songs kept getting more amplified as the focus to the stage began to wane. Maybe this isn’t the right outlet for this band. As bizarre as it might sound, I envision them playing to a planetarium full of hipsters, blazing up the cheeba. The band has a highly nontraditional sounds so why try to fit them into the traditional concert mold?
As much as I wanted this to work coming in, it just didn’t for me. This great album just didn’t come to life on stage. All the pieces were there, but something was lost in translation. My suggestion is to skip the live show and pick up Lonerism. Play it until your computer’s speakers bleed then play it again. This is a brilliant album, but that seems to be all it is.