Tame Impala makes psychedelic magic at Greek Theatre

Tame Impala, Kevin Parker

Photos: Diana Cordero

BERKELEY — This is what Tame Impala looks like at the height of its powers: Glorious, swirling psychedelia via video screen, round, thudding bass mooring the beat and Kevin Parker singing in glorious falsetto underneath a blizzard of confetti.

Tame Impala’s themes are often about self-doubt, isolation and change soaked in a warm bath of reverb and echo, so the fact that Friday’s show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley felt downright joyous is a testament to their grasp of their stage craft.

It was the Australian rock group doing everything it does well for 95 minutes.

The tone was established early, taking the stage as a white orb at the center of a green video screen began to dance and spin like a Spirograph. The screen was used to illuminate the colorful, hallucinatory atmosphere.

But what it really came down to was the music, which was where Parker and company delivered best.

Given the quality and sharpness of the production on the band’s studio efforts, particularly last year’s Currents, it’s no small feat to say Tame Impala sounded as crisp and rich live as it does on a stereo. Its syrupy bass lines were sweet enough to keep the beat chugging. Parker’s songs had enough forward momentum to make the whole evening engaging.

Given that Parker said disco heavily influenced Currents, it can be no mistake that classics of the genre such as Rose Royce’s “Car Wash” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” played as Tame Impala’s gear was set up.

Parker was engaging but never desperate, letting the audience come to him. His flashiest move of the night came on “Oscilly,” an unreleased solo effort, when he stood alone on stage with his guitar and played in sync with the same white orb on the video screen from the top of the show.

Later, during the dramatic coda to “Apocalypse Dreams,” he ever so briefly lifted his guitar above his head in triumph. Much of the rest of the time, he prowled the stage and sang or, when playing his ax, danced while singing at the center stage mic stand.

The gig felt brisk, a well-paced set that threw two of the band’s biggest hits, “Elephant” and “The Less I Know, The Better” midway through the evening.

This was Tame Impala with confidence and swagger. The level of execution gave the feeling this might just be the band at the top of its game, even celebratory.

At least it felt pretty damned celebratory during “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” when those jets of confetti were raining on the crowd.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra opened the night, taking the stage 15 minutes before the printed 8 p.m. start time and playing a full hour. Their set spread songs out between the group’s three records and also included a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.”

Tame Impala setlist
Let it Happen
Mind Mischief
Music to Walk Home By
Alter Ego
Why Won’t They Talk to Me
The Moment
The Less I Know, The Better
Yes, I’m Changing
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind
It Is Not Meant to Be
Apocalypse Dreams

Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
New Person, Same Old Mistakes

Unknown Mortal Orchestra setlist
From the Sun
How Can You Luv Me
Shakedown Street
Thought Ballune
The World Is Crowded
Stage or Screen
So Good at Being in Trouble
Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)
Ffunny Ffrends
Can’t Keep Checking My Phone

Follow Nick DeCicco at Twitter.com/ndeciccodr and Facebook.com/nickdjournalist.

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