Tame Impala @ House of Blues 3.12.13

by Ben Stas, published April 25th 2013

photos by Ryan Kehr

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Australian psych-rockers Tame Impala wrapped up a triumphant second U.S. tour in support of 2012’s Lonerism with a sold-out show at Boston’s House of Blues in March. Lonerism has proven itself a blockbuster success for the band, topping numerous year-end lists and catapulting them to an unlikely level of mainstream popularity. Back in November, just a month after the album’s release, they sold out the roughly 1,200-capacity Royale. Four months later, they packed in more than twice that many fans at the triple-story venue across town.

It’s all rather fitting, given that both Lonerism and 2010’s Innerspeaker deal in panoramic psychedelia that lends itself to huge stages. The bedroom-composition origins of both records might not suggest it, but songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Kevin Parker pens some huge, anthemic tunes. His sharp, nuanced songs of isolation and loneliness, borrowing and updating a sonic palette from classic 60s psych, exude a strange sort of warmth and accessibility that comes across remarkably well in a live show.

Parker is the band’s Billy Corgan, writing and recording much of the material himself with contributions from his touring members. In the context of live performance, though, Tame Impala function as more of a cohesive unit than a bandleader-centric group.

A career-spanning set at House of Blues brought out highlights from Innerspeaker and the Tame Impala EP, along with the majority of Lonerism. The band’s renditions maintained the atmosphere and feel of the original songs while simultaneously reinventing them with live energy. Favorites like “Elephant” and “Half Full Glass of Wine” were reworked with extended exploratory jams, ranging from spacey abstraction to full-on classic rock muscle. Even on the songs that didn’t stray far from their studio counterparts, impressive musicianship and a strong sense of the interplay between Parker and his four bandmates was readily evident.

Despite the increasingly large stages they’re finding themselves on, Tame Impala still maintain a no-frills approach to their live show. Each member appeared lost in their own world on stage, focused more on the music than on any sort of stage presence. Parker only paused to talk once, in order to thank the band’s crew and openers The Growl. A fittingly hypnotic oscilloscope-style visualizer lit the large screen at the back of the stage, offering a simple but effective accompaniment to the music that was a good deal more interesting to watch than the band themselves.

It’s difficult to fault Tame Impala for a lack of stage presence when they sound as good as they did on this particular night, though. Killer renditions of great songs kept a huge crowd spellbound and still wanting more when it was all said and done.

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