Australian band Tame Impala brought their distinct brand of psychedelic rock to the Orpheum Theater Wednesday, cranking up all psychedelic aspects to 11.
After sound technicians, all of whom wore labcoats, set up the band’s equipment, the band walked onstage. Singer Kevin Parker took front and center, and the band jumped into a dizzying take on Innerspeaker’s “Desire Be Desire Go.” An oscilloscope covered a giant screen behind the band and shook spastically to the sounds of the band’s instruments. Multicolored lights surrounded the group, and occasionally shone across towards the audience, casting the Orpheum in a visually-pleasing psychedelic glow. During solos and heavier moments, strobe lights flickered behind the band. All of these visual elements came together to perfectly complement the band’s dense, smile-inducing sounds, which were expanded on considerably during their set.
Tame Impala’s studio sound remained perfectly intact in a live setting. Songs sounded little different than they do on Innerspeaker and Lonerism. What was amazing about their live performance, however, was the jams they incorporated into their songs. “Mind Mischief” was performed primarily as an instrumental and began with an extended jam, incorporating elements of the studio version’s second half.
After a stunning rendition of “Music to Walk Home By,” Kevin Parker politely said, “Thank you dudes—and dudettes.” He said they hadn’t been in Madison since they opened for MGMT a few years earlier. Keyboardist Jay Watson then turned to the crowd and asked, “Is anyone going to let us party at their fraternity later? I’ve always wanted to hold up one of those read cups.”
Certain songs actually improved in a live setting. The oscillating chords of the repetitive “Be Above It” took on an especially psychedelic sound, and the song morphed into an extended, trance-like electronic jam. Watson sat behind his keyboard during the song, casually shaking his head back and forth like an awed teenager listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for the first time.
At one point, Kevin Parker turned his back to the crowd and stared at the oscilloscope behind him. He played simple notes and watched as the green blob made trippy fluctuations. He tilted his head to the side, staring at the screen like a small child would stare at a rabbit in their backyard. This sense of childlike innocence—also manifested in Parker’s even more childlike live vocals—turned into an explosion of sonic deliciousness as the band segued into “Solitude is Bliss.”
The band’s set was brought to a close with “Apocalypse Dreams.” As Kevin Parker played the song’s roaring chords, he brought his guitar above his head and swung it towards the ground. The walls of noise mixed with his movements and the trippy kaleidoscope of colors created a scene that can only be described as “majestic.”
The crowd roared in appreciation after the band left the stage with the green blob onscreen and a garbled sound coming from their instruments. The band came back onstage and played two more songs, “It Is Not Meant to Be” and “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Control.” The extended jams on both songs left the audience dancing and in awe.
Tame Impala absolutely killed it. Let’s hope they found the red cups they were looking for. They deserved it.