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Tame Impala Impresses in Round One at Surly

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Kevin Parker of Tame Impala showing off his googly-eyed guitar, Photo by Travis Meier

Though Surly Brewing has been holding concerts for several years, none has been as hotly anticipated as Tame Impala’s performance Tuesday night. The show, the first of a sold-out two-night stand, was the Australian psychedelic act’s first show in Minneapolis in several years. Thanks to a fan-friendly, well-executed setlist and stellar visual production, it more than lived up to the lofty expectations fans had, while also demonstrating why Tame Impala is among the best acts working today.

The night began with a set by the buzzy, Twin Cities-based act Velvet Negroni. A project led by local music veteran Jeremy Nutzman (Pony Bwoy, Marijuana Deathsquads), Velvet Negroni is set to release a new record, NEON BROWN, on 4AD at the end of August. This set saw Nutzman backed by a four-piece band who helped flesh out the textures that define his work. The music, which could be called experimental R&B, was psychedelic, though in a completely different way than Tame Impala’s would be. The sets were very different but complementary to one another.

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Velvet Negroni performing at Surly Brewing Company, Photo by Travis Meier

Velvet Negroni didn’t completely win the audience over, but put on a solid and interesting set nonetheless. It’s exciting to see up-and-coming local talent in any setting, but it was especially cool to see such a unique project get the spotlight that comes with opening for a more established act.

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Velvet Negroni performing at Surly Brewing Company, Photo by Travis Meier

The headlining set would be nothing short of spectacular. Though Tame Impala is a one-man band in the studio (with Kevin Parker being ‘the one’), their live shows have garnered the reputation as being some of the best in the business. On this night, Parker was joined by four bandmates, and occasionally a fifth, each of whom would be locked in from beginning to end.

The playing of Parker and Co. was one of the stories of the show. The arrangements were complicated and layered, and the band executed them with precision and grace. It’s not easy to cover the ground they covered, stylistically speaking, but the players made it look just that way, moving between sounds and styles dexterously.

This dexterity was on display early on, specifically on “Let it Happen,” the opening track from their excellent (and most recent) album, Currents. The song, a multi-section psychedelic disco epic of sorts, was the second and longest song played in the set. The band navigated the arrangement with ease, and the crowd loved every second of it.

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Kevin Parker of Tame Impala jamming in white smoke and light, Photo by Travis Meier

More Currents Tracks would serve as highlights, including the climactic “The Moment” and “Eventually” which came toward the end of the set. This is not to say their other albums, Innerspeaker, and Lonerism, were ignored.

 Both albums had their time in the spotlight, yielding standout moments throughout. It was two Lonerism tracks, in fact, which seemed to mark a shift in the show, about halfway through. While “Elephant” and “Feels Like we only go Backwards” are the groups two biggest pre-Currents hits, I don’t know that anybody in the audience was equipped or prepared to deal with what the band was about to hit them with.

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Tame Impala performing at Surly Brewing Company, Photo by Travis Meier

I’m referring, of course, to a laser light show, and a great one at that. The use of lasers in concerts isn’t new and isn’t always that exciting, but this show used them as effectively as any I’ve been to. Working perfectly in sync with “Elephant,” the lasers helped create a completely immersive spectacle. It was deeply psychedelic, and beautiful in a way. They would return a few more times during the second half of the set, but never in quite the same way.

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Kevin Parker of Tame Impala performing at Surly Brewing Company, Photo by Travis Meier

More “conventional” lighting was also used, as was a video board. Taken as a whole, the visuals were some of the strongest and most engaging that I’ve ever seen used in a concert. Rather than being a distraction from the music, the visuals worked in tandem with the band to create a truly memorable experience for all in attendance.

As it got darker, and the band was able to deploy more from their extensive bag of tricks, the crowd and the show itself seemed to hit another gear. Long before the set-closing one-two punch of “Eventually” and “Apocalypse Dreams,” it was clear that this would be a set to remember.

It was, put simply, an excellent night. The weather, the beer and the music were all top-notch, combining to make for one hell of a show.

Aaron Williams
Author: Aaron Williams

Written by Aaron Williams

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