This was a much-anticipated gig for me by the psychedelic Aussies, in a front of a sell-out near-2,000 crowd at the rarely used Liverpool Olympia. I’d only ever been to one gig here before, when Echo & The Bunnymen performed all of their first two classic albums back in December 2010.
Tame Impala released their third album Currents earlier this summer, which is rather a departure from the two previous ones (and the earliest, eponymous ep), with its much heavier reliance on keyboards and shift towards dancier music. While it’s certainly not my favourite of their releases, it’s still a good piece of work, so I was looking forward to seeing them on their first ever visit to the city, a place that remains well and truly in love with all things psychedelic.
The current studio line-up of singer and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker (who was formerly the one-man bedroom band), Jay Watson on keyboards and guitarist Dominic Simper are joined in the touring band by bassist Cam Avery and Julien Barbagallo on drums.
Sadly the gig clashed with what seemed to be a top night at Maguire’s Pizza Bar, where the Trust The Wizards trio were promoting a gig headlined by Scottish lo-fi John Peel faves Spare Snare, with local all-girl combo Fort Baxter making their live debut as support. In fact, I previewed this gig for Getintothis here.
I had a quick mission to perform in town at John Lewis, before driving up to the Olympia, finding a great parking spec in a little car park about five minutes’ walk away, parking fans.
My ticket was in the Lower Balcony as I’d not got round to sorting my ticket until the show had been on sale for a while. This certainly did not help in the overall enjoyment of the show, but meant I had the benefit of having a seat for the whole evening. I got my solitary drink of the evening in, a pint of Guinness, and then managed to find a seat in the second row, between two groups of people.
I was just in time to see all of Nicholas Allbrook’s set. I knew very little of him, but had streamed his debut solo album (last year’s Ganough, Wallis & Fatuna) in advance of the gig to get a flavour of his modern psych, that was definitely less tune-focused than the headline act.
He is another Aussie, frontman of Pond, and also ex-touring member of Tame Impala, with a bit of a look (but not the sound) of Johnny Borrell from Razorlight, at least from the distance I could see him.
He started with some heavy psych guitar riffing, before the samples kicked in. He was a one-man band, livening his show up by regularly standing on one leg, while wearing a gold dress! The set was very warmly received by the crowd, but I very much doubt many went on to buy the album the following day, with the whole thing having a slightly self-indulgent air.
There was quite a long break between bands, which is when the balcony seat came into its own. I got through a few of the short chapters of the book I Blame Morrissey: My Adventures With Indie-Pop And Emotional Disaster by Jamie Jones, which I am really enjoying at the moment, having heard about it on the Trust The Wizards podcast.
After the roadies in lab coats had set things up, out came Tame Impala. After an introductory piece, we headed straight into the treated vocals and 80’s keyboard sounds of the new album’s gorgeously woozy Let It Happen, with the older songs being played in a similar style to the latest numbers, as everything got just a little bit too slick for me at times.
The light show was impressive, the best I’ve seen since Moon Duo at The Kazimier earlier this year, as reviewed here. Sometimes, the sound was a bit too treacly, with the set overall suffering from being all a bit too mid-paced, despite being drawn from across their three albums.
Innerspeaker’s It Is Not Meant To Be was rather underwhelming for such a good song, and was followed, surprisingly early on, by possibly their best known song Elephant from second album Lonerism, including the first of two drum solos that night.
The trippy Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind? was followed by the new album’s Cause I’m A Man, which suffered from rather muddy sound. Alter Ego was rather forgettable, but next came the marvellously epic Apocalypse Dreams from Lonerism that closed the set.
The crowd on floor level were clearly really into the show, with the balcony unsurprisingly being rather less obviously enthusiastic, with very few people standing at any point. Down below, girls on shoulders were a regular sight, with the audience being much more couple-y than the average gig.
The band came back for a drum-driven instrumental before another golden moment in the singalong Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, again from Lonerism, before the night ended with another from the same album, the less inspiring Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control.
Overall the evening was something of a minor disappointment, though no doubt I’d have enjoyed it more if I’d been down at floor level, or had been able to have more than the one drink (with prices unsurprisingly high, but not astronomically so). I really wish they’d come to town earlier in their career, to play somewhere snugger like The Kaz.
Here’s hoping for deeper psych joy at the imminent Liverpool Psych Fest, which is my next ‘gig’.
I wore my purple Wooden Shjips tee as I felt there was a certain psych kinship between them and the main act. I somewhat surprisingly spotted very few other band t-shirts, apart from Tame Impala themselves and Pond.
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Here is much of the night’s music on Spotify: