Somewhere Between a Dream and a Dance: Tame Impala @ UIC Pavilion


As Kevin Parker donned his signature Rickenbacker guitar, the band opened their set at the UIC Pavilion with the wobbling pulse of “Nangs.” Tie-dye colored lights projected spiraling designs onto the band. Tame Impala transported us to one of Ken Kesey’s acid tests.

After repeating the song’s one line “but is there something more than that?” the band responded by striding into “Let It Happen.” Though the song sounds like the inner-dialogue of a nervous introvert, Parker confidently welcomed the nearly full arena to clap and sing along. During the song’s glitchy middle, Parker asked the crowd, “ready to have a good time?”

Tame Impala surprised many of their long-time fans by inflecting R&B and experimenting with disco on Currents last year. And now we’re witnessing the transformation from the bedroom recording artist to a star who flourishes on stage.

The Australian psychedelic outfit is filling out arenas and big festivals alike, and Kevin Parker is now collaborating with other artists. Speaking of which, they covered “Daffodils,” the upbeat Mark Ronson disco song that featured Parker as the vocalist.

When they started “Mind Mischief,” confetti fell on everyone — I caught a piece in the air and kept it to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. The band pulsed the auditorium with flares of reverb and flanger. It felt like their very presence onstage electrified my body. Their punchy drums drove the band and the crowd forward but the sizzling keyboards kept us in a trance.

Their set consisted of a good mix of songs from Currents, Lonerism and Innerspeaker, as well as a few fun jams, like “Sestri Levante” and “Oscilly.” And they played all the classics—Parker sang “Eventually” yearningly, the band thumped along to the shaky march of “Elephant,” which included a drum solo, and the audience grooved along to the basslines and falsettos of “The Less I Know the Better.”

After playing for about an hour and a half, they ended with “Apocalypse Dreams.” But the arena lit up with cell phones and echoed with cheering. Not soon after, Tame Impala closed the night with an encore of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” as Parker encouraged the crowd to sing along, and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”

Tame Impala gave us the impression that they’re mild-mannered, psychedelic wizards who venture down the rabbit holes of their studio. But they’re becoming rock demi-gods capable of mesmerizing an arena full of people, and Kevin Parker is hypnotizing us all under his spell.

Colin S. Smith
Colin S. Smith

Colin Smith thinks that Chicago right now is the place to be for music. He works for Illinois Humanities, is a freelance writer, and plays psychedelic-pop songs with his band.

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