Tame Impala's radiant, reticent psychedelia has the Mann Center reeling - WXPN
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Tame Impala | photo by Avi Warren for WXPN

Tame Impala has headlined every major music festival this summer, from Coachella to Lollapalooza –  and yet, Kevin Parker doesn’t seem to thrive in the spotlight. A self-professed control freak, Parker writes and produces alone. Tame Impala’s set is jam-packed with theatrics, maybe as an extra protective layer between Parker and the rest of the world. In front of a sold out amphitheater at the Mann Center Friday night, the tsunami force of indie music appeared humbled, though their sound was by no means small.

The evening kicked off with a set by experimental R&B act Velvet Negroni, led by Jeremy Nutzman. The Twin Cities rapper gained traction after earning credit on Kid Cudi and Kanye West’s collaborative album, and recently featured on Bon Iver’s latest album i,i. Backed by a four-piece band, Nutzman played tracks off his upcoming album NEON BROWN, out August 30 via 4AD. “KURT KOBAIN” was a standout, with its funky 80’s beats and jumpy pace. “CONFETTI” was slow and sultry, saxophone and flutes trailing a melody. Nutzman’s unique vocals are the centerpiece for every song, a smooth, reggae lilt that twists and stretches vowels as if he’s singing in another language entirely.

Tame Impala | photo by Avi Warren for WXPN

For Tame Impala’s set, Parker stood apart from the rest of the band, clutching his vintage Rickenbacker, skin bathed in iridescent light. Bursts of confetti rained down for opener “Let It Happen,” Parker’s entrancing falsetto echoing through the arena. Parker disguises his voice with audio effects, giving an impression of distance (think John Lennon during the Revolver era, but in Rick Davies’ high octave). Each song was matched with projected hallucinogenic visuals of melting colors and shifting patterns. The screen went dark for some songs, replaced by erratic, flashing laser beams. This was perfect for the rumbling, bass-heavy “Elephant,” lights vibrating in time to the beat, blinking a different color for every note.

Bright pop single “Borderline” made a late-set appearance, pulsing with harpsichord-sounding keys and fluttering pan flutes over a congas-driven beat. Parker paused to note, “I’ve got confetti in my drink… Can I have another drink please?” earning laughs and some swoons over his Australian accent. In the lull, an audience member yelled out that the band had given him a drumstick at a show in Minnesota – “Help me complete the set?” he asked. Parker held up a stick, asking if it was the same kind, so that the set would match, and then kindly passed it into the crowd.  After the powerful double-hitter of “Apocalypse Dreams” and “The Less I Know the Better,” Tame Impala announced their closer, the understated Currents track “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” (covered by Rihanna in 2016). With its silky-tongued synths, the song left us wandering the hazy dark, ears still reeling in psychedelic soundscapes.

Setlist
Let It Happen
Patience
Led Zeppelin
The Moment
Mind Mischief
Nangs
Elephant
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Borderline
Love/Paranoia
Yes I’m Changing
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
Eventually
Apocalypse Dreams

Encore:
Mutant Gossip
The Less I Know the Better
New Person, Same Old Mistakes




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