It’s both obvious — there are an abundance of song titles explicitly referencing time and its passage, like “One More Hour,” “Eventually” or “Lost in Yesterday” — and subtle: an extended guitar solo given a moment to breathe, a single lyric uttered so frequently it becomes a mantra, or a loop repeated so insistently your own perception of time folds in on itself.
The time spent Tuesday inside a comfortably full American Airlines Center during the final scheduled U.S. stop on the Australian export’s Slow Rush tour (taking its title from the 2020 album of the same name) slipped by in what seemed like an instant.
A cheeky pre-show clip for a fictional drug called Rushium (an enormous inflatable vial bearing its label was stationed outside the venue for selfie-snapping fans) underlined the point even further: “Improving the perception of time is something we’re passionate about,” chirped a lab coat-clad woman on screen, whose voice soon disintegrated into sludge and static.
No sooner had the shaggy-haired Kevin Parker — the gregarious, feather-voiced architect of Tame Impala’s woozy, Grammy-winning fusion of arena rock, disco, psychedelia and electronica-dusted pop — stepped onto the stage than the room erupted, ready to lose itself in the moment.
Kicking off with “One More Year,” from last year’s superb The Slow Rush, Parker, backed live by, among others, bassist Jay Watson, guitarist/synth player/keyboardist Dominic Simper, drummer Julien Barbagallo and synth player Cam Avery, spent much of the next two hours orchestrating a calibrated sensory overload.
Lasers and strobe lights ricocheted off the arena’s surfaces, amid the continual fog and smoke, erupting confetti cannons and a LED video screen, stretching all the way across the stage, among images evoking vintage screensavers on LSD. It was a visceral, giddy catharsis — one song after another provoking raucous cheers and sing-alongs probably heard clearly in Plano.
“You’re gonna make me emotional,” Parker told the audience after “Eventually,” one of many full-throated audience participation moments.
Tame Impala’s irresistible hooks often mask more sober lyrical observations — “Life is moving, can’t you see/There’s no future left for you and me,” goes a line in the achingly gorgeous “Yes I’m Changing” — but that mix of melancholy and pop gloss is potent in concert.
The setlist ebbed and flowed beautifully, segueing from the funky strut of “Borderline” to the hallucinatory excess of “Apocalypse Dreams” to the stunning one-two punch of the main set closers “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” The encore opener “The Less I Know the Better” nearly tore the roof off.
Parker was in fine voice throughout, his falsetto tucked away within the various layers but clearly audible — no small feat, given the concussive, brain-rattling bass deployed throughout.
Admittedly, there was a tinge of eeriness stepping inside the arena and seeing the floor full of general admission ticketholders less than a week after the Astroworld Festival tragedy in Houston. With attendees of Tuesday’s performance required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, the apprehension shifted from potential illness to the specter of a deadly anarchy.
But here too, Parker (who had been scheduled to perform with Tame Impala at the festival’s eventually canceled second day) indirectly acknowledged the grim events of the past and deftly moved beyond: “Are we gonna have a good time? Are we gonna look after each other?” he asked, to vociferous roars, prior to ripping into “Elephant.” “That’s all I need to know.”
As the world continues to fitfully emerge from its pandemic stasis — a protracted moment that’s both flown by and dragged interminably — Tame Impala has proved to be a band ideally suited to its times. By turns contemplative and riotous, Parker’s music is an escape, but only just. Call it a dance party for the end of days.