Tame Impala at Manchester Arena review

Henry Lewis witnessed Kevin Parker propel Tame Impala to stadium-sized supremacy.

Ben Smith

Date published: 16th Feb 2016

Image: Tame Impala 

Ever since the rolling stones released their rock’n’roll disco stomper ‘Miss You’ in 1978, there has been an abundance of bands who have turned on the funk in style. The likes of Queen, The Clash and more recently Arcade Fire have all succeeded by following a toe tapping musical direction.

In 2015 it was the turn of psychedelic rock genius Kevin Parker A.K.A Tame Impala to bring in the synths and drum machines and transform his band into something almost unrecognisable from their former selves. 

Currents was a dynamic mix of up tempo groove laden anthems and hip hop sloe jams with finger snaps and falsetto aplenty. It followed up Parker’s two collaborations with funk and soul revivalist Mark Ronson.

By the time the five-piece from Perth had made the lengthy trip over to the U.K the anticipation was enormous to say the least, yet only two cities were blessed by the presence of one of the finest acts in the world right now.

In keeping with their third album Tame Impala launched into the gig at breakneck speed with ‘Let It Happen’, its siren like synth-guitar blaring whilst mind bending projections glared behind them.

With the budget for ticker tape seemingly endless, the capacity crowd in the standing section were treated to three separate explosions, the first of which as the opening song exploded into the funk overdrive of its closing moments.

With songs from Currents scattered exquisitely amongst some of the finer moments from the band’s first two records, the set was a psychedelic masterpiece and a treat for the fans.

Kevin Parker looking as casual as ever seemed in his element too. Given his studio dwelling nature you’d expect perhaps more enigmatic tendencies from the front man, but he seemed relaxed, chatty and warmly humorous.

The last time his band visited Manchester they performed at the considerably smaller Albert Hall, and in the eyes of most fans, the venue best suited for the band’s sound. 

To the surprise of many, the Arena’s acoustics did not disappoint, but the reality is this: Tame Impala are an arena band and their sound deserves to fill bigger venues.

Here they proved that, with the psychedelic swirl of ‘It Is Not Meant To Be’ seeping into every corner of the room and reminding everyone of what brought attention to a band with sonic similarities to the likes of Pink Floyd and the Beatles.

But it was the eye wateringly tight trousers of the brothers Gibb, who inspired Kevin Parker on his last recorded venture. He bridged a substance fuelled emotional connection with the BeeGees to fuel the disco inferno that gained so many plaudits. 

The likes of ‘The Moment’ sounded as immaculate live as they did on a record so meticulously produced. The frontman even conducted a symphony of synthesisers and guitar with his bare feet and an enormous collection of pedals.

The undeniable groove of ‘The Less I Know The Better’ was the catalyst for the evening’s crescendo, unsurprising given its popularity amongst the majority of the Tame Impala faithful, old and new.

Currents more accessible sound has led to the band enjoying a broader spectrum of fans and this hadn’t gone unnoticed by Kevin parker, who was genuinely grateful for the support and showed this by prefixing all of his thanks with the f-word.

Rather more subtle was the way he maintained the pace of the night with constant encouragement for movement from those in front of him. It seemed that barely any time had elapsed as the band melted into the encore with the cataclysmic blare of ‘Apocalypse Dreams’.

The closing numbers slowed things down delightfully and ‘New Person Same Old Mistakes’ proved to be an unexpected, yet inspired final number.

Its appearance on Rihanna’s new album, ANTI, is a sign that Parker’s music is being recognised in places that you’d never have expected. 

Though it’s doubtful he will go full Chris Martin and turn Tame Impala into a glory hunting fixture of the Capital radio playlist, it may lead to the introduction of guests onto any future album.

The only travesty is that David Bowie won’t be one of them given the disco driven sound of Currents. After what he did for both Queen and Arcade Fire, a track with Kevin Parker would have been a match up of seismic proportions.  

Read: The Maccabees at The Albert Hall Manchester review