Tame Impala unleashes glorious psychedelia at Chase Center

photo of Tame Impala during a concert
Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff

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It’s been a long time since the COVID-19 pandemic first forced the world to press pause on live performances, shelving concerts from favorite artists for an indeterminate and ever-growing amount of time. But last Wednesday, Sept. 15, Tame Impala brought its mystical sounds and mind-bending visuals to a sold-out concert at Chase Center in San Francisco and reminded thousands of audience members of the sorely missed, pre-pandemic magnificence of live music shows.

Violinist and singer Sudan Archives opened for Tame Impala, and her vocals paired with her Sudanese-inspired fiddling produced a truly unique R&B and experimental electronic experience. Dressed head to toe in neon and complemented by even more colorful visuals, Sudan Archives demanded attention with her powerful stage presence. While her entire set exuded raw musical talent, her performance of “Come Meh Way” was particularly impressive.

The break after the opening act was abruptly ended by a killing of lights, which the arena answered with anticipative cheering. A video began playing on the huge Chase Center screen of a woman advertising a time-altering drug called Rushium (the theme for The Slow Rush tour), which grew disturbingly distorted as it descended into signature, unnerving Tame Impala madness. Suddenly, the woman was replaced by a splattering of color, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and touring band came onto stage to begin their first song, “One More Year.”

The show was as much a feast for the eyes as it was for the ears. Each song was accompanied by stunning experimental imagery that incorporated animation, pre-recorded and live-recorded elements and lots of peculiar visual effects. Lights of every imaginable color illuminated the stage, flashing to each song’s rhythm and establishing a heartbeat throughout the entire venue. A big spinning light disc — reminiscent of a UFO saucer — made the light show even more dynamic. The stage and pit transformed into a space-age disco during “Let it Happen.”

Laser lights were also heavily featured in the show, particularly during the high-energy performances of “Elephant” and “Eventually.” They filled the space over everyone’s heads with beams of light to create a beautiful suspension of color in the darkness of the vast Chase Center. While the flashing array sometimes became a little excessive over the transitions layered between songs, the lights were an undeniably valuable addition that brought an exciting cohesion to the show and enhanced the music’s flow and fluidity.

One does not have to be a fan of Tame Impala to have a swell time at a Tame Impala concert. Parker’s music is so fundamentally catchy that each song becomes enjoyable without complete familiarity. Tame Impala’s complex instrumentals blend together in a shimmery melting pot of psychedelic sound, and Parker’s smooth, soft falsetto paints ringing streaks of highlights over every track. Evident throughout all of Tame Impala’s music is incredible technical and creative proficiency, and punchy bass lines, ethereal synth and unconventional rhythm are mastered staples.

While the complexity of Tame Impala’s artistry may seem difficult to perform live, its performance sounded just as good, if not better, than the recordings. Parker and the touring band members — Dominic Simper (guitar, synthesizer), Jay Watson (synthesizer, vocals, guitar), Cam Avery (bass guitar, vocals) and Julian Barbagallo (drums, vocals) — have fantastic chemistry on stage. They do the songs’ recordings justice and then some, never missing a note while adding more brightness to the music than their studio-polished versions.

It’s impossible to resist dancing at Tame Impala’s concert. Its groovy melodies send each beat right into your body, making thousands of attendees pulse and jump and sway to the rhythm of each song. The entire arena sang along to well-known favorites, including “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “The Less I Know the Better.”

Tame Impala delivered an electrifying, energizing and splendidly fun performance to Chase Center in a rare couple hours of apparent normalcy. Hopefully, the world of live concerts can be restored to its former glory soon, because Tame Impala has made the Bay miss it a lot more.

Contact Joy Diamond at [email protected].