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Gig Review: Tame Impala @ The Palace Theater, 15th October

I went to this show due in no small part to the support act, John Steel Singers, who are one of the best smaller Australian bands going around at the moment, however I was also looking forward to seeing Tame Impala live again after having been underwhelmed with the first time I saw them. What I witnessed was a predictably great set from the John Steel Singers, but an unpredictably (at least for me) mind-blowing set from Tame Impala that left me in awe and made it clear in my mind for the first time just why these guys are Australia’s most significant contribution to the international music scene in a long, long time.

I arrived at The Palace, which was a perfect venue as always, in time to see the entirety of the John Steel Singers. I have seen these guys live quite a few times now, however they were given a suitably lengthy time slot this time round and were at their most impressive and enjoyable.

When they break into their galloping drumbeats spearheaded by a trombone and a trumpet, they really are in a class all of their own. Strawberry Wine provided an early sing along, getting the crowd moving nicely, just as an opening act should. Rainbow Kraut was similarly fantastic.

The John Steel Singers’ new album is coming out in a little under a month, and looks to be a certain hit, featuring some of the well known songs from their previous singles and EPs. One of these is Masochist, probably my favourite song from the guys, which was just brilliant live. Likewise Evolution heralded a stunning end to their set which actually saw a small but spirited mosh develop towards the front of the crowd.

There were quite a few new songs I didn’t recognise littered in their setlist, however unlike some shows these weren’t low points but rather some real highs. It looks like this band have kept a few tricks in their bag for their upcoming album, and I can’t wait to hear studio versions of some of the new songs that really jumped out at me.

These guys have their live show down to a fine art by now, but yet to their credit it never seemed routine. It was an exhilarating and, above all else, very very fun set from one of my favourite Australian bands. They really do look poised to reach a much bigger audience with their upcoming album, and their opening set demonstrated why this is not just justified but truly deserved. Although I’d certainly be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by the uncharacteristic lack of horse masks.

While I was at the gig partly because of The John Steel Singers, there was no doubting who everyone else was there to see, and the push towards the front intensified as the support act left the stage and the arrival of Tame Impala grew ever closer. These guys are the epitome of cool Australian music at the moment. For too long on the international scene we have been represented with dull bands like Jet, but Tame Impala really are onto something big with their psychedelic, hook-filled sound. A highly sought-after ‘Best New Music’ tag from Pitchfork for their debut album ‘Innerspeaker’ is proof enough of that.

I would have never guessed it the first time I saw them live, which was nearly two years ago at the final incarnation of the V Festival here in Australia. They were unimpressive, fuzzy, and far too nervous for comfort, playing a dingy little tent in front of only a handful of people. They had only released one EP by this point, and to be honest I pretty quickly wrote them off as a band I wouldn’t be hearing much of in the future. How wrong I was.

In all fairness the bass player did a mean chicken dance.

That uncertain performance could not be further from the confidence the guys exuded from the moment they took to the stage at The Palace. With the unmistakable smell of weed in the air, a sweaty push towards the front growing ever stronger, and a mesmerizing backdrop of lasers behind the stage, on a stormy and freezing Melbourne night, it was time for Tame Impala.

Wasting no time the guys broke into the opener from their debut record, It Is Not Meant To Be. Straight away you could tell that this was going to be a show to remember, and that Tame Impala’s sound really is much better suited to an enclosed venue like the Palace rather than an open stage at a  festival or some shitty tent.

Solitude Is Bliss made a surprise early set appearance, and as my favourite song of theirs, it certainly did not disappoint. The atmosphere in the crowd was electric, more sweaty and jumpy than I would have ever imagined. Even though Tame Impala’s indifferent stage presence is just a part of the act, it was easy to tell that they were really enjoying themselves and were being lifted by the energy in the crowd.

The run of songs from ‘Innerspeaker’ continued with a couple of lesser numbers before Desire Be Desire Go was played in all its glory. It saw a full on mosh develop at the front of the crowd, which is not something you see very often to a band with as many psychedelic leanings as Tame Impala. It was impossible not to get caught up in the buzz of the thing, and even though I’m nowhere near as familiar with Tame Impala’s stuff as I could be I found myself loving every minute.

A run of songs I didn’t recognise followed, before the band said “I know you think we say this everywhere, but this really is out favourite city to play in”, which was met with huge applause from the crowd. Unfortunately not much else of their banter was understandable due to the mic effects, however it was clear that they were having a great time.

It was at this point I managed to make my way to the second row, front and center, where a surprisingly mental moshpit had developed. The last few songs were therefore much more intense for me, especially  Half Glass Full Of Wine, jumping up and down in time with everyone, screaming along to lyrics I didn’t know, and just losing myself in that vintage guitar riff.

Strangely there was no encore, and the show finished with a bit of an anti-climax as the crowd slowly dispersed after eventually giving up on the bands return.

This was one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable gigs for me so far this year. I knew John Steel Singers were going to be great, but as someone who has never really counted themselves among Tame Impala’s many fans, I wasn’t expecting a lot. I certainly wasn’t expecting a set this energetic, enjoyable, and polished.

It was a great night, and I’m now most certainly happy to call myself a fan of the psychedelic rockers from  Perth who are taking the world by storm.

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