Being so far away from everything, it’s rare that New Zealand gets the opportunity to see a band perform an album the same year it is released. Often we’re tacked on as an afterthought at the end of a world tour that has already been on the road for 18 months. So it felt special to see songs from Currents in a live setting only a few months after the album was released.
Last night’s concert at Logan Campbell Centre was Tame Impala’s first ever headlining set in New Zealand and the R15 crowd was raucous and enthusiastic. The band seemed genuinely taken aback by the response and, perhaps realising their mistake, were apologetic about how long it taken them to get there.
After an instrumental introduction, the gig started with album opener 'Let It Happen', one of the night’s highlights. Tame Impala’s songwriter and frontman Kevin Parker put more focus on the rhythm section on Currents and the bassline grooves made for a dancier live show. Who knew dancing to an album about a break up could be so much fun?
Woven in among the disco-inflected songs from the new album, some of the older songs like 'Not Meant to Be' and 'Alter Ego' sounded shallower in comparison; like there was something missing. After Kevin admitted earlier this year that he feels “bittersweet” about the success of 'Elephant', their biggest song to date, I was surprised to hear it included in their set list last night. The crowd surged forward, delighted to hear that infectious beat of their favourite song. Even the band seemed to be having fun with it again.
The last time I had seen Kev and co. was at a pub in rural Victoria, Australia, shortly after the release of their debut EP. Back then they were shy, avoiding eye contact with the audience and their live set was just as scruffy as they looked.
But there was promise in those early days and Kevin has since acclimatised to being the frontman of a popular band. Throughout last night’s 90-minute gig, he moved around the stage, throwing water on the sweaty fans at the front and engaged with the crowd. “How are you guys at the back? Yarright?” He said, like a true Aussie ocker.
For 'Yes I’m Changing', the closest Tame Impala will ever get to a pop ballad, he put the guitar aside and sat on the edge of the stage, serenading the people in the front row.
The light and visual show was slick, with projections on the back wall encouraging us to get lost in the psychedelic elements of the music. During an instrumental interlude Kevin stood by himself with his back to the audience, drawing out notes and watching a green line on screen quiver with each strum of his guitar. Then with his band back on stage, they moved seamlessly into 'Cause I’m a Man', one of the night’s sing-alongs.
Parker’s vocals were flawless throughout, and being in a shed-like venue enhanced the music’s reverb, whereas the same space has muddied the sound at other concerts.
Coming back on stage for the encore after a rowdy reception from the audience, the band looked even more stunned than before. “I’m so overwhelmed!” Kevin said, before asking everyone to help him with the next song and soon the whole audience was singing along to ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’.
The band seemed reluctant to leave the stage, saying “We had no idea New Zealand would be like this. Nobody told us!”
While they were surprised by us, Tame Impala was everything I could have hoped for. Last night’s concert was one of the best shows I’ve been to all year.
Let It Happen
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
Not Meant to Be
Yes I’m Changing
The Less I Know the Better
Cause I’m a Man, Woman
Make Up Your Mind
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Nothing That has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control