A Band of the Moment

November 12th, 2012

Tame Impala – Webster Hall – November 13, 2012

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a struggle for many in the New York City region, so by the time this past weekend rolled around, pretty much everyone was having a “Calgon, take me away!” moment. And as if on cue, Tame Impala had arrived for two sold-out shows, wrapping up Saturday night at a smoke-filled Webster Hall, where they proved to be the perfect band to transport an audience away from reality.

Working heavily on material from their acclaimed new album, Lonerism, it didn’t really seem to matter which tune Tame Impala played. A guitar-as-pyschedelic-lute number was a magic-carpet ride to a mythical Arabia; a synth-and-theramin-driven one a Narnian wardrobe; a torrent of off-meter drumming a tornado to Oz; buzzing bass notes laced a time-traveling DeLorean; two guitars crashed together to bring the crowd to Platform 9¾; and midway through the set, a sublime version of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” had otherworldly vocals and keyboards tugging the audience en masse down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. All the while the screens behind the band pulsed with hallucinogenic shapes and colors. This was a band of the moment, working at the height of its powers.

From there, it was through the looking glass with glorious extended instrumental sections punctuating the second half of the set, time stretching like taffy under the power of the music. The unique psychedelia of Tame Impala’s sound brought a surprising amount of groove for the crowd to latch onto, making sure that both mind and body were under its sway. Even barefooted frontman Kevin Parker wasn’t immune to the gravity his music generated—gyrating and lying down, entranced, onstage late in the show. The encore was a single piece that seemed to wrap up the main themes of the night, with sonar-pinging guitar making way for a long, enhanced jam with multiple ideas and an ecstatic building climax that threatened to unmoor the club completely from reality. For better or worse, though, the heels of the ruby slippers tapped, the smoke cleared and the show was over. Reality beckoned. —A. Stein