They’d have been hard-pressed to get into most bars in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn last night, looking like a collection of barefoot, teenaged hippies up to no good. And while their first-ever NYC performance at times mirrored their questionable appearance, Australian quartet Tame Impala eventually justified their current internet buzz with a heady set of fuzzy psychedelia and shifty post-shoegaze.
Getting introduced to American audiences as the opening act on MGMT’s recent U.S. tour has certainly boosted their cred — as did last night’s onstage cameo from MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden — but their successful New York area debut had more to do with their delightfully messy stoner sound than any friends in high places.
Onstage at the cozy Coco66, bluesy riffage from singer-guitarist Kevin Parker battled for the limelight from song to song with squelchy noise from guitarist Dom Simper — think Cream-era Clapton matching wits with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. It’s a lofty analogy, for sure, but those are the stylistic poles between which Tama Impala operated — with varying degrees of confidence.
One minute, they were storming through “Lucidity,” off their just-released debut full-length, InnerSpeaker, and shirtless, shoeless drummer Jay Watson was doing his best Ginger Baker impression underneath Parker’s Stratocaster noodling. Then came “Solitude Is Bliss,” a Madchester-era shuffle that recalled the blasé cool of the Stone Roses, with Parker’s nonchalant singing barely intelligible atop Simper’s trippy chords. Both moments were gripping and self-assured.
Then there was the goofy set-closing escapade that sprung from “Half Full Glass of Wine,” from their self-titled 2008 EP. VanWyngarden popped onstage to play bass (with his back to the crowd the entire time), Parker and Watson switched instruments, bassist Nick Allbrook picked up a flute — a move all too befitting his dude-from-Blue Lagoon/woodsprite looks — and what followed was a juvenile jam session that mildly undercut the potency of the tunes that preceded it.
But the night could be summed up with a few of VanWyngarden’s own lines from “Time to Pretend”: It felt rough and it felt raw, but Tame Impala have got the vision, and are definitely having fun.
Tame Impala setlist:
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
Solitude Is Bliss/Skeleton Tiger
Half Full Glass of Wine