An Australian Band Grows on the Road

April 26th, 2011

Tame Impala – Webster Hall – April 26, 2011

A glowing green dot waited patiently in the middle of a panel of screens. And like the gathered crowd, it had come for Tame Impala. But starting from the band’s opening song, it began to mutate. The dot became circles and the circles pulsated to the music. For some, these oscillating shapes simply occupied the background, disregarded as a trippy distraction. This perspective, however, seems to miss the point entirely. Psychedelic rock is wholly sensory, visual field included. And experiencing Tame Impala’s music is linked to seeing it transform.

Monday night’s sold-out show at Webster Hall is part of this young band’s transformation. As they continue to tour behind their excellent debut album, Innerspeaker, studio arrangements are changing, as is their stage presence. When I first saw this band in the fall, they seemed rigid and nervous. Each band member stuck to an assigned part, delivering carbon copies of songs from the album. Now, evident from narcotized renditions of “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?” and “Solitude Is Bliss,” they are keen to explore new possibilities.

The first three songs (the aforementioned two plus “It Is Not Meant to Be”) felt slower by a few BPMs and sound manipulation rather than technical trickery filled improvisational gaps. A cover of Massive Attack’s “Angel” even sneaked into the set list, something not done before according to lead guitarist and vocalist Kevin Parker. And with a looser yet engaged attitude complementing their dreamscape melodies, Tame Impala appears up to the task of reinvigorating psychedelia. —Jared Levy