Tame Impala review – synth fanfare and sonic showmanship

Barrowland, Glasgow

Kevin Parker amps up songs that already sounded epic in a gig that starts out raucous and just keeps going

Tame Impala’s road crew wear white lab coats, a nod to the fact that the ascendant Aussie psych troupe are an ongoing experiment. The band functions as frontman Kevin Parker’s personal sonic laboratory, testing the mood-altering effects of gauzy synthesisers, throwback phase pedals and helter-skelter, multitracked vocals. But on their recent third album, Currents, Parker has been researching an alternative power source: romantic fallout.

Somewhere under its woozy layers, prog-rock chart-topper Currents is a break-up record, but it has given Tame Impala teeth. Backed by a scruffy-looking, tight-sounding four-piece, Parker expands and intensifies songs that already sounded epic: the martial strut of Let It Happen becomes 10 minutes of synth fanfares and urgent finger clicks, while the oscilloscope visuals wired up to his guitar create giant spirograph doodles on a screen. In the rock pantheon of Kevins, Parker seems to have spliced the obsessive sonic sculpturing of Shields with something more like the heart-on-sleeve disposition of Rowland.

This sold-out gig is so raucous from the outset the house lights come up during the third song – the radiophonic swirl of Why Won’t They Talk to Me? – so the band can fully appreciate the swaying salutes stretching to the back of the ballroom. The energy of the crowd awakens Parker’s inner showman. “You guys like to get rowdy, eh?” he says, squirting jets of water into the sweaty first few rows. He also test-drives some Irn-Bru-based banter and delivers an unexpected burst of Stayin’ Alive.

The audience is note-perfect on Parker’s wild guitar solo on Elephant, while new song Cause I’m a Man, despite its deceptively self-lacerating sentiment, becomes a glitteringly sci-fi Barry White jam. By the time Parker’s hairy band of brothers get to the Motown stomp of Apocalypse Dreams, the pinwheeling visuals have coalesced into a giant glowing green eye floating above the crowd. The reaction is overwhelmingly positive.

• At Olympia, Liverpool, on 9 September. Box office: 0151-263 6633. At Bestival, Isle of Wight, on 11 September. Box office: 0844-888 4410.


Graeme Virtue

The GuardianTramp

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