REVIEW: Tame Impala @ Massey Hall (Toronto) | May 19th, 2015

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By Zev Citron. Aussie psych wizards Tame Impala stopped by Toronto Tuesday night at Massey Hall to promote their third studio album, Currents, with the help of Mini Mansions, the Los Angeles indie pop rock trio headed by Queens of the Stone Age bassist, Michael Shuman. Kevin Parker, the frontman and leader of the group has stated in previous interviews that the new album is meant to be listened to with a group of friends, compared to their universally acclaimed 2012 LP, Lonerism, which he says is more of a solitary listen. With Parker releasing singles like “Let It Happen” and “Cause I’m A Man”, I have been pleasantly surprised by their new but familiar sound, which seems to span across generations of music from 60s psychedelic rock all the way to modern EDM.

When I learned that Tame Impala was going to be playing Massey Hall, I knew it would be quite the experience. The legendary Toronto venue has been host to hundreds of amazing artists, the most famous concert probably being Neil Young’s live album which was recorded at Massey Hall back in 1971. It truly is a legendary stage, and both bands acknowledged that before the start of their sets which I can happily say met the standards of playing there.

Mini Mansions kicked off the night with an impressive 10-song set which included several songs off their new LP, The Great Pretenders, along with a heavy and unique cover of the Blondie hit, “Heart of Glass.” This band can sure make a lot of noise with just three guys. The most impressive thing about them would have to be the multi-instrumental talent of Shuman, who sings, drums, and plays guitar while wearing a kickass multicoloured suit. Unfortunately, the way concerts seem to run these days is that nobody in the crowd really gets into the music until the headliner hits the stage. Looking around, I only saw two people at opposite ends of the venue standing and dancing to the music. However, Mini Mansions is gaining traction fairly quickly, especially because of the support from the likes of Arctic Monkeys Alex Turner and Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys being featured on their new album. They’re opening today, but I see Mini Mansions headlining in the near future to have the crowd they deserve to play for.

Seeing Tame Impala is not just a concert; it’s an experience. Besides Parker’s stellar songwriting and hypnotic melodies, there is an unsung hero in the group. This man is Joe Ryan. Joe is responsible for supplying the visuals that project behind the band throughout the show. As a fan of Tame Impala, I had heard all of their songs prior to the show including the newly released singles off their upcoming LP. However, watching them perform live along with Ryan’s psychedelic graphics felt like an acid trip without the acid. The band’s musical talents were put on display through improvised jams played during almost each and every song, notably a completely unexpected jazz jam in the middle of “Elephant” from bassist Cam Avery and Julien Barbagallo on the kit. Each song felt like I was listening to it for the first time with a new set of ears.

The highlight of the show for me would have to be Parker’s performance of “Oscilly.” The lights went dark on the stage and everyone in the crowd waited in silence to see what was in store. I cannot entirely explain how it was done so you’re going to have to trust me on this. Kevin Parker somehow became a wizard and used his guitar as his wand to create beautiful visuals on the screen behind him. If somebody knows how he performs this magic please comment below, I’m dying to know.

The 90 minute setlist which consisted of crowd favourites, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “Apocalypse Dreams,” along with some hits from their first LP, Innerspeaker, solidified Tame Impala’s status as true rock gods. Throughout the show, I kept thinking to myself, “this is what it must’ve been like to see Pink Floyd in 1973.” Yeah, I went there.

Mini Mansions second LP, The Great Pretenders, is out now. Tame Impala’s third LP, Currents, will be released on July 17 and is now available for preorder on iTunes. 

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