Formed in 2007, Australian psych-rock outfit Tame Impala has slowly built an impressive reputation among critics and indie rock enthusiasts. Functioning primarily as an outlet for songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, the group has released two acclaimed full-length albums; including this year’s mesmerizing, fantastically layered “Lonerism,” which continues the musical conversation started in the ’90s by freewheeling psychedelic bands like Olivia Tremor Control and the Apples In Stereo — delivering a more polished realization of those group’s creative four-track experiments.
“Lonerism” has proved a sensation among tastemaking media outlets and tickets for Saturday evening’s concert at the Fonda Theater sold out rapidly. In most instances, audiences for such a hotly-tipped show will be cool and relatively detached, but the Fonda crowd was anything but. In many ways, it was a relief to see a young, hipster-approved band actually connecting with its audience in a truly rapturous and reckless way.
Performing as an expanded five-piece group, Tame Impala stretched out in the live setting, adding scope and improvisatory elements to its dense, carefully-arranged compositions. Opening with the relentlessly looped “Be Above It,” the band exhibited a balanced blend of sounds that, while heavily textured, never threatened to overwhelm or detract from the significant melodic lines. As the drum loop plowed forward, Parker leaned into the repetitive refrains and carefully wrapped his high-pitched, Lennonesque croon around each undulating syllable.
The dreamlike “Enders Toi” and the rollicking, hallucinatory “It Is Not Meant to Be” showcased the band’s skill as builders of distinct textural environments. Layers of phased guitar flowed seamlessly into long, slowly-unfolding organ and synthesizer lines. The rhythm section — made up of bassist Nick Allbrook and drummer Julien Barbagallo — was fantastically nimble and expressive. The gorgeous “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” found Allbrook digging into his Hofner violin bass with concise, hyper-melodic lines.
Each song transitioned excellently into the next. The thick, chugging riffage of “Elephant” contrasted nicely with its spacier setlist counterparts and was eventually busted wide open — transformed into an expansive jam and breakdown section. Allbrook engaged in a wildly entertaining drum excursion that eventually dematerialized into a pulsating, bass drum solo. The group’s musical chemistry and wild creativity effused from the stage at every turn and though there were a multitude of ideas on display, everything seemed to fit perfectly.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Parker is a thoughtful composer of music wherein each component part seems to have been orchestrated for a specific purpose. As a live unit, Tame Impala further clarifies his vision and takes it a step further by adding the expressiveness of five creatively gifted musicians.
Openers the Amazing provided a tasteful set of pastoral psychedelia that was greatly-enhanced by drummer Johan Holmegaard’s jazz-influenced technique and improvisatory skill.