Tame Impala review, O2 Arena London: An engrossing experience, a dimension apart

Kevin Parker’s group seem to exist in a reality slightly removed from our own

Mark Beaumont
Sunday 09 June 2019 10:16
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Kevin Parker is Tame Impala's leading man
Kevin Parker is Tame Impala's leading man

Forget CERN – physicists should really be focusing their search for proof of alternative dimensions on Tame Impala gigs. They certainly seem to exist in a reality slightly removed from our own. One where, despite the glass ceiling preventing alternative rock bands from getting within a billion streams of the singles chart, a psych-pop solo project from Perth can still make it to the most cavernous arenas without bending over and taking a Bastille drainpipe-synth hook where the sun don’t shine.

The fact that they’re here with only two fresh tracks in the set list and no new album since 2015’s Currents, is further testament to their surreal ascendance. Alongside a handful of uncompromising major bands – The National, Vampire Weekend, Wolf Alice, Royal Blood – they give the left field reason to dream.

They sound inter-dimensional too. Kevin Parker’s aesthetic is pure Zabriskie Point acid trip, a grainy psychedelic haze drawn from the most melted minds of the late 1960s. He arrives onstage to footage of a group of friends skipping across a field that dissolves into Beatledelic swarms of colour; later visuals have him blinking five eyes or firing laser beams from his eyeballs. Whenever he steps to the front of the stage, sans guitar, a swirl of fractal colours is projected onto his white T-shirt, as though he exudes new-age trippiness and sweats pure LSD.

But his sonic trick is more sophisticated than simply reviving classic psychedelia. His songs are far more rooted in 1970s prog, glam and soft rock – Supertramp, Bee Gees, Floyd, Ziggy-era Bowie – then doused in amorphous time-warp noises he presumably gets by strapping a microphone to the outside of the Tardis, and sung as if he’s having a perpetual out-of-body experience.

So, “Let It Happen” could be an early Genesis experiment being dragged through a monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey by Daft Punk. “The Moment” could be an old Chicago number spinning into the deep cosmos, eventually sucked into a guitar solo that sounds like nothing other than a bitchy black hole. “Yes I’m Changing” and “The Less I Know the Better” are superb psych re-imaginings of Hall & Oates. Parker has admitted that he’s been inspired by listening to the Bee Gees on mushrooms and cocaine, and you can hear it in “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “Mind Mischief”, a boudoir ballad for AIs.

The new tracks suggest a worrying lean towards cruise ship disco (on “Patience”) and poolside Latino funk (“Borderline”), and when Parker drops in a pace-killer such as “It Is Not Meant to Be”, or goes full wormhole for too long, it’s clear that Tame Impala don’t yet have the catalogue to warrant a 90-minute arena show. But there’s always a laser-strewn monster to hand – the magnificent space pop epic “Eventually”, or “Elephant”, his stumbling, fuzzed-to-the-max take on Pink Floyd’s “Money”. An engrossing experience, a dimension apart.

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