Western Australian’s Tame Impala reaped the minds of bleary-eyed fans at a sold-out 9:30 Club show Wednesday night. The psychedelic rock group, led by mastermind Kevin Parker, sounded well-rehearsed and in complete control on the second night of their North American tour.
The long-haired, barefoot Parker took the stage shortly after 9:30, excited to play the U St. venue for the first time. The group began with a warped, trippy intro that segued into an extended version of “Apocalypse Dreams,” a prime example of the synth-enriched shoegaze found on their critically-acclaimed sophomore album Lonerism. The projections were appropriate for the mood: glowing squiggles, bursts of infinite fractal flames, and enough swiftly-changing colors to stimulate minds on mild hallucinogenics.
I couldn’t properly review this show without acknowledging the THC nebula that lingered over the audience for the first half of the set. In the battle between DC’s stoners and the notoriously strict 9:30 Club security, the bums won.
Self-indulgence was the theme of the evening. Parker lengthened many songs with gluttonous helpings of bass and fuzz. Breakthrough single “Solitude Is Bliss” contained an interlocked, lengthy instrumental jam by Parker and his lead guitarist that navigated the audience through a sonic abyss. The swaggering “Elephant” sounded as raucous live as you would expect it to. The bass was so numbing on “Mind Mischief” that a drunk guy next to me fell over.
The introductory pulses of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” garnered a huge response from the crowd. As the audience bounced along to “Tomorrow Never Knows”-update, the vibe in the room was slow-moving, like we were stuck in psychedelic ball pit.
Tame Impala sounded consistently amazing, but their weak point remains Parker’s limited vocals. He can fine-tune his performance with unlimited takes in the studio, and he can hide his voice in a condo of reverb, but some of his crackles and yelps were cringeworthy. Parker’s singing was “Endors Toi” was particularly suspect. Thankfully, after he stepped away from the mic, he ripped off another monster jam.
After a too-quick hour, Parker wished the audience well and the group started into a euphoric version of “Half Full Glass of Wine.” It’s obvious why Tame Impala saves this song for last: it’s hard to top this 10-minute, loud-as-hell behemoth that knocks you on your ass with swirling guitarwork wrapped around a psychedelic motorik beat.
A one-song encore of fan favorite “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” ended the night with several sizzling guitar solos. This was my first time seeing these guys and I was hypnotized from start to finish. You didn’t have to be on drugs to have your brain cratered by Tame Impala, but I’m sure it helped.