Published Jul 27, 2019Tame Impala may have headlined Coachella earlier this year, but frontman Kevin Parker still doesn't quite feel like a proper rock star. This much became clear just a few minutes into the group's performance at a jam-packed Budweiser Stage: while Parker's bandmates tore into the danceable stomp of "Let It Happen," the frontman set aside his instrument, casually ambled to the front with a red Solo cup and greeted fans with an awkward thumbs up. It felt more like he was greeting a buddy at a kegger than hailing thousands of screaming fans.
Parker still doesn't revel in the spotlight — quite literally, since most of the show featured trippy lasers, billows of smoke and static-y VHS videos. Even when he repeatedly thanked Toronto between songs, he usually left his vocal effects on, and theatrics came in the form of blasts of confetti rather than personal charisma.
Live, the Australian group seem much like they do on record: a gearhead's dream, with a finger constantly on a flanger effect and an encyclopaedic knowledge of '60s psych and '70s disco. They aren't touring in support of a new album — Currents came out all the way back in 2015 — so this made for some unpredictable set list choices: the conga-bopping pop single "Patience" was immediately followed by the retro rock riffs of the Lonerism bonus track "Led Zeppelin," while the disorienting synth fuckery of "Nangs" led into the swaggering glam boogie of "Elephant." The latter tune featured a tongue-in-check techno breakdown that lasted only seconds before careening back into classic-sounding psych.
The five musicians were packed in close together in the middle of the enormous stage, and they united each new stylistic exploration into a haze of cavernous reverb, sighing falsetto and seasick phaser effects. This reached its best towards the end of the show with the heartbroken one-two punch of "Yes I'm Changing" and "Eventually," which were transformed from lovesick laments into triumphant synth anthems. There were no unreleased new songs, although recent single "Borderline" was an energetic late-set highlight.
Tame Impala curiously omitted "'Cause I'm a Man," instead ending the encore with "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" (an understated song that was never a single, but got a surprising boost of publicity when Rihanna covered it for her 2016 album ANTI). As clouds of confetti engulfed the stage and a circular bank of lights lowered down from overhead, Parker and company meticulously executed the song's slinky synths and bleary soundscapes — new popularity, same old Tame Impala.