LIVE: TAME IMPALA – THE ALBERT HALL, MANCHESTER

The success of Tame Impala’s second album Lonerism when it was released in late 2012 elevated them from odd-ball rockers that many could take or leave, to world beaters at the forefront  of a 60s psych revival that has done more to get guitar music back towards the mainstream than anything else.

Their next effort will be a huge step that will give much insight into the true longevity of the project, but for now they are still spending summer 2014 riding one final Lonerism wave. In preparation for their appearance at this weekend’s Latitude festival, Tame Impala played a warm-up show within the grand (and recently refurbished) surroundings of Manchester’s Albert Hall.

Visually, the venue is an absolute treat, having formerly been used as a methodist church after its opening in the early 1900s. As we might expect, however, it attracts a very different crowd nowadays.

Tame Impala’s increased popularity is demonstrated by the fact that tickets for this one sold out almost instantly after going on sale, and after a summer’s day that has been sunny, rainy and (most noticeably) muggy, the temperature already looks unbearable for some as they wait for the band to arrive on stage later than scheduled.

Eventually Kevin Parker and his band come forth and start proceedings in the same way as Lonerism with the album’s opener ‘Be Above It’. The big-beat percussion and infectious loops immediately catapult the audience into a state euphoria and it is apparent that the venue’s stewards could have a task on their hands – not just keeping them hydrated but also persuading crazed fans down the front to keep their clothes on as many begin to strip off to cope with the heat.

An arsenal of hits that seems to be ever-growing means the crowd can expect little rest bite though. Their debut InnerSpeaker is generally thought of as a slightly weaker record, but lead single ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?’ remains a real highlight of the set.

Unsurprisingly, the most frenzied reaction comes when the swashbuckling rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Elephant’ kicks in. The Tame Impala live experience is one that veers and meanders yet more than the sprawling nature of their records, and even during a signature hit like ‘Elephant’, drummer Julien Barbagallo takes the crowd on an enthralling journey by breaking the track down for an emphatic solo.

This kind of unpredictability and the fluid nature with which the band stroll between different numbers is accompanied by a retro-style psychedelic visual that is beamed from the screen behind the stage. This screams 1980s 8-bit gaming culture, as opposed to the 60s vibes that anchor Tame Impala’s sound, but it is a marriage that brings an extra dimension to the show throughout the evening.

By the time the final portion of the set approaches, there are some high up on the venue’s balcony who look ready to keel over in exhaustion, but that’s not enough to convince them to give up their vantage point for the show-stopping crescendo.

The six-piece leave the stage and return for an encore that gives one last chance for a mass singalong in the shape of ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’. The closing number then takes a more expansive approach, with the wordily-titled ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’ lifting off into a mesmerising instrumental.

As attendees vacate the venue, there is something of a crush as drenched fans realise the forgotten dream of fresh air is about to once again become a reality. But each and every one of them leaves having been thrilled by the trip that Parker and his band have taken them on.

Patrick Davies

 

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