Tame Impala

support Jagwar Ma
author BV date 03/02/16 venue Falconer Salen, Copenhagen, DEN

If you had walked up to me in 2012 and told me that Tame Impala would create a banger of a synth-pop and disco-infused psychedelic album in 2015, I’d probably have looked you dead in the eye and told you to lay off the drugs. However, it doesn’t really surprise me all that much in hindsight as the breakthrough qualities of “Lonerism” already showcased the direction Kevin Parker was intending for Tame Impala – the direction that clearly shone through on “Currents”. Still, I was not in the least prepared for the horde of young women (and surprisingly well-groomed young men) in attendance at this particular evening’s Tame Impala headliner concert – their first in Denmark in more than 2½ years. If anything, it showcased the diversity and almost universal acclaim that has befallen Parker from 2012 and onwards. Now, I thought, was for this new material to stand the test of a live setting – something which I had imagined to prove challenging for the band.

Photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Jagwar Ma

As per usual, however, there was of course the matter of the evening’s support band to tend to. Having had very little time to actually get acquainted with Jagwar Ma’s material beforehand, I took a risky shot and simply played one of the outfit’s tracks on a weekly radio show I host – much to my surprise, I found the music to be quite engaging. As the trio walked on stage I was initially dumbfounded. I had honestly expected such a full sound to come from a much larger outfit; something along the lines of a quintet or similar. Nonetheless, as the highly electronic soundscape was built up by one member behind a large array of various synthesizers, a thundering bass underlined these soundscapes with simple but powerful low-end vibrations before the vocalist kicked off the proceedings in style with a somewhat fragile, yet altogether engulfing voice and a rather bland, almost inaudible guitar. In terms of getting a party started, I’d gladly go on record saying that Jagwar Ma are indeed capable of just that. However, as their set progressed a certain sense of monotony did start to kick in, leaving me effectively underwhelmed altogether as their set neared the 40-minute mark. The thing is, even though they attempted to infuse the show with a vibrant sense of energy, their complex soundscape seemed too demanding for them to actually let loose in the way they seemingly wanted to. Pair this with a lingering sense of monotony in some of the material they played late on in their set, and you’ve sadly got a show which peaked early on, yet dwindled in intensity rather quickly from there. In their defense, I would like to add that their show might actually quite a bit more intense on a smaller stage where it would be easier for them make a genuine connection with a party hungry crowd. It sadly just didn’t work out that way in Falconer Salen.

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Tame Impala

As strange, bass-heavy sounds started to overtake the hall of Falconer Salen and a crazy lightshow created with an oscilloscope started to kick in, the five dudes who make up the live-version of Tame Impala took the stage, armed to their teeth with synthesizers and guitars galore, creating shimmering, crystalline ambient noises before venturing into an instrumental intro. Not ones for wasting time, the band hastily let loose with a blistering rendition of “Let it happen” – a track which I have previously remarked works extraordinarily well in the live setting, based on that one time in Texas where I experienced it firsthand. The almost Goa-trance reminiscent track had several rows of the audience going crazy to the synth-heavy tune – something which only intensified as cannons then proceeded to shoot massive amounts of confetti out into the vibrant hall of Falconer Salen. Before wave upon wave of confetti had vanished entirely, the band launched into “Mind Mischief”, a personal favorite of mine which always seems to work quite well in the live setting as Kevin Parker and the rest of the band tend to let loose and play around a bit with the basic structure of the track. It was not until the band played the first few notes of “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?” that the crowd seemed to really open up – not only to the music, but also to the idea of Kevin Parker as a rather embracing front-man; a massive development from the days of “Innerspeaker” and “Lonerism” where you’d often hear about the amazing musicianship and the almost awkward interactions with crowd.

Nothing seemed awkward on this night, however, as Parker danced around the stage during songs where his guitar-playing was at a bare minimum (sometimes even non-existent), instead of just standing around in an awkward fashion. It worked wonders throughout tracks like “The Moment” where the guitar plays such a miniscule role that it would simply seem off-putting for Parker to not be doing anything. In spite of the warm reception of tracks off “Currents”, it was genuinely heartwarming for a massive fan of “Lonerism” such as myself to hear the thunderous (and yes, I do mean thunderous) applause which tracks like “Elephant” received – guitar-driven and fuzzed out as that particular track might be. Even “Elephant” showcased a definite sign of musical development however, as the tight and ‘serious’ delivery was eventually softened up with the band playing around with the rhythm – effectively infusing a key element of the song with a more danceable, slightly humorous musical twist.

With a minor barrage of new tracks in the form of “Yes I’m Changing”, “The Less I Know the Better” and “Eventually” I started to get a renewed appreciation of “Currents” as a whole. Granted, its pristine production comes off as almost synthetic and, well, clinical at times. But it is genuinely amazing to actually see and hear these tracks being performed live in ways that are not only closely aligned with their album versions, but also infused with a lot of the spontaneous charm of the live setting, so as to not sound mechanic. It is particularly noteworthy that although Parker occasionally struggles with the highest falsetto notes, his vocals are generally clear-sounding and quite engaging – something I had heavily doubted they would be, due to the technical proficiency required to sing in such a register for prolonged periods of time – particularly with such precision.

My personal highlight of the show was, however, the extended period of time that led from the very first notes of “Alter Ego” all the way through “Apocalypse Dreams” – a track I have previously compared to the ultimate ecstasy, a pivotal point of the band’s live show which I honestly couldn’t imagine their setlist without. This particular timespan was where genuine musical magic happened for me, personally, as the smooth transitions via quirky routes such as the instrumental section now dubbed “Oscilly” proved to tie the sounds together in a quite engulfing manner. As the last notes of “Apocalypse Dreams” rang out through the hall it was as if I was coming down from a very powerful trip. The comedown wasn’t altogether harsh as Tame Impala soon returned to the stage to perform two encores – the massively popular “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and the album closer of “Currents”, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” – effectively bookending the show before sending the still hungry crowd back out on the cold streets. Although I have witnessed better concerts, this one will remain up there with the best of them for quite some time. Even though I’m a fuzz-head all the way and still listen more frequently to “Innerspeaker” and “Lonerism” than “Currents”, I have, at the very least, had my doubts and concerns regarding the new material and its prowess in the live setting effectively killed off. There’s no doubt about it – Tame Impala are an amazing live band these days.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Intro
  • 02. Let it Happen
  • 03. Mind Mischief
  • 04. Why Won’t They Talk To Me?
  • 05. It Is Not Meant To Be
  • 06. The Moment
  • 07. Elephant
  • 08. Yes I’m Changing
  • 09. The Less I Know the Better
  • 10. Eventually
  • 11. Alter Ego
  • 12. Oscilly
  • 13. Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
  • 14. Apocalypse Dreams

—Encore—

  • 15. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
  • 16. New Person, Same Old Mistakes

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