Tame Impala Take Radio City Music Hall to Outer SpaceOctober 7th, 2015
Tame Impala – Radio City Music Hall – October 6, 2015
There was a sign taped to the entrance of Radio City Music Hall last night with a rather innocuous warning about the use of strobe lights during the evening’s performance. Considering what was awaiting the audience inside the theater, a more truthful sign might have offered something like: “Warning: You may be abducted by aliens” as Tame Impala transformed the historic room into a psychotropic, science-fiction landscape with their extraterrestrial sounds and out-of-this-world visuals. The band took the stage to a roar from the sold-out crowd and entered into several minutes of atmospheric instrumental jamming that broke the audience free from Earth’s gravity and entered them fully within Tame Impala’s orbit. Wasting no time, Kevin Parker and his mates immediately slipped into “Let It Happen,” the lead single from their newest album, Currents, which felt tailor-made for the band’s already formidable live show, with its layers of synths battling acid-wash guitars over multiple movements of increasing energy.
When seeing Tame Impala live, it’s difficult to disentangle the sights from the sounds: The pastel lights and kaleidoscopic projections contribute directly to how you hear the music and vice versa. Seeing them perform at Radio City, at its heart a glorious movie theater, the effect is multiplied by infinity. “Mind Mischief” found a hypnotic zone-out in the pulsing, jittering lines zooming across the screen. “The Less I Know the Better” felt like a lysergic Bee Gees groove with a digitally multihued beaded curtain streaming behind the band, a doorway to a psychedelic disco. “Eventually” had yellow sunshine lights pouring over Parker as he sang, “I know that I’ll be happier” before the band entered into a deep prog while rainbow spirographs came to life.
Looking back at the last few years of NYC Tame Impala gigs, the visuals and the music have followed a similar progression: The simply psychedelic green oscilloscope trace is still the heart of the projections, but it’s now evolved and mutated into an extrasensory artwork rivaling the sights at any rock show today. Likewise, the heady, explorative psych rock of InnerSpeaker and Lonerism is alive and well—the explosive “Elephant” was a centerpiece to the set—but has now sprouted branches of emotionally charged songwriting, clear, heartfelt vocals from Parker and layers of mind-altering synthesizer, alloyed together into a live-music masterpiece. As Tame Impala charged through the final stretch of their set, finding more exotic and progressive excursions along the way, building to the climactic highlight close of “Apocalypse Dreams,” the music and the light show feeling like almost too much, but only almost, the evening seemed to transcend.
When Parker hopped up on the siding of the theater and perched himself above the crowd, I was reminded of Jim James pulling off a similar move many years ago during a My Morning Jacket show, although while James hammed it up with his Gibson Flying V, Parker was content to sit down and just take in the moment. The night ended with a sing-along encore of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” with Radio City’s hemispherical ceiling lit up to truly feel interplanetary, and finally a drawn-out version of “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control,” a drum-fueled paradise of psychedelia, the projections reminiscent of the steeple of the Empire State Building, lit up in Technicolor to welcome us back to planet Earth.
—A. Stein | @Neddyo