Sahan Jayasuriya
Tame Impala

Far from loners at Turner Hall Ballroom

The Australian psychedelic pop outfit made their return to Milwaukee, playing an impressive Turner Hall show Sunday.

By - Mar 4th, 2013 10:27 am

Tame Impala returned to Milwaukee to perform at Turner Hall Ballroom Sunday night. All photos by CJ Foeckler.

“I love youngsters like Tame Impala who have a reverence for classic sounds but create something new.” -Larry King

Australian psych-pop purveyors Tame Impala initially came to prominence in 2010 with their debut album Innerspeaker. The album’s blend of fuzzy guitars, infectious rhythms and warm analog synthesizers earned the band international critical acclaim and saw them touring extensively in support of it. But while acts like MGMT reek of effort and calculation, Impala’s brand of headphone-friendly psychedelic sunshine possesses an honest and sincere quality, not unlike that of The Flaming Lips and Grizzly Bear.

Their sophomore album Lonerism was released last fall to immediate critical praise, finding itself atop many critics’ year-end lists. Produced entirely by band leader and mastermind Kevin Parker, Lonerism achieved the difficult goal of playing to the band’s strengths while also building on them. The band made their return to Milwaukee Sunday night, headlining Turner Hall Ballroom.

Taking the stage to a packed house, the band warmed up the audience with a short, sparse and primarily instrumental intro. Then they launched into their first proper song, Innerspeaker’s “Solitude is Bliss,” punctuated by a brief instrumental jam at the song’s end. “Apocalypse Dreams” from Lonerism followed, its mid-tempo beat infectiously commanding the audience to bob their heads (mostly) in unison. Other set highlights included the glam rock homage “Elephant”, the grooving “Mind Mischief” and Lonerism’s latest single “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” The band played in front of projections that recalled everything from  Spirographs to the visualizer on Winamp circa 2001.

Impala’s recorded output features a specific production style, integral to their sound, so recreating the songs verbatim as-heard on the albums is nearly impossible. Instead, the band traded in small and subtle for huge and upfront. The result: the songs are there, and performed well, but performed in a way that’s noticeably different from their recorded form. Completely absent is the swirling 360 degree stereo experience of their albums, replaced by a brick-walled and modern sound, characterized by dirtier guitars and louder drums. This is hardly a bad thing, and says quite a bit about Parker’s songwriting: If they can alter a song’s fundamental elements successfully, then that, my friends, is the mark of a truly well-written piece of music.

While the Pabst’s acoustics would have suited the band better than those of Turner Hall, the show was still a delight. Maybe it was the music coupled with smiling familiar faces, vibrant colors and pot smoke, but for a brief moment I almost forgot that it wasn’t actually summer. This was Tame Impala’s first visit to Turner Hall, but the way mainstream tastes are shifting, I can only imagine it to be their last as well. If they play their cards right, Tame Impala has a bright future on the horizon – loners no longer.

Categories: Life & Leisure, Rock

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