After scheduling The Slow Rush Tour prior to the release of the latest studio album from Tame Impala, Kevin Parker finally made it back to New Zealand shores for a one-off show at Spark Arena. The Slow Rush was released in February 2020, at the cusp of the global pandemic that rocked the entertainment industry. The show was postponed twice, which meant fans had to wait at least two years to experience the new music firsthand. Kevin put it into perspective for us, during one of his interludes. He’d heard of patrons purchasing their initial tickets at 15 years old and now finally attending as 18-year old’s! Multiple times during the show, Kevin made it known how much he appreciated the reception from the people of New Zealand, for he always finds it quite significant returning as his career had origins here. Naturally then, the energy at the venue was tangible beyond description, and the band brought vibes that reached your very core. Everyone was just happy to be there… Finally!
As is common knowledge, Tame Impala concerts are not simply just another show, it’s an experience. Arguably, my experience began on Saturday morning, where Kevin dropped his first hype builder. The Tame Impala Instagram is not known for being that active, but Kevin shared the love with us, posting early Saturday morning. It was a photo of an empty Spark Arena, with the signature ‘donut’ lighting rig being setup, the caption simply read “Hello Auckland.” A gesture that sure got the fans reeling with anticipation. But this wasn’t all. Checking in later, I noticed a story was posted and it was a picture of the thematic ‘Rushium’ supplement, with a caption about the provision of such being banned at the venue, so had to be moved to Flying Out Records on Pitt St for distribution. So, I made my way down to the record store and managed to nab a few samples. This added a unique opportunity to play into the thematic elements of the tour, which hinged on a drug trial by a pharmaceutical company called Aion Well, for a product called ‘Rushium’ (inspired by the new album). The sentiment was that the drug would allow you to “experience time – for the first time!”. This was a unique way to engage with fans and add to the overall experience.
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At the venue, attendees flaunted their creative outfits and colourful get-ups to match Tame Impala’s euphoric vibes. The floor quickly filled up and people pushed closer together to get the best viewing angle of the stage. By 8:50pm, the crowd was ready for Tame Impala, as we watched production crew tweak synthesisers and one person tune Kevin’s iconic Rickenbacker guitar. A few cheers started, and then it all went dark and the Aion Well representative appeared on the screen, instructing and informing the audience about the Rushium we were about to take. Her voice grew more warped and time delayed. Eventually, she distorted so much that the sound became sonic fuzz and paired with emerging bursts of morphing colours, and we got our first psychedelic visual of the show. The sound bled into the expansive sounding introduction of ‘One More Year’, the opening song off The Slow Rush. As the band made their way onto the stage, which features multiple synthesisers, two drum kits, a pair of conga hand drums, a couple bass guitars, electric guitars, a projector screen, and of course a plethora of lights, the crowd just cheered and cheered and cheered. Kevin took time to walk to either side of the stage and greet the crowd, before he found his place center stage with the mic and let his ethereal voice soar for the first time.
Following the stellar introduction, we got ‘Borderline.’ This was a lead single off The Slow Rush, and its two versions have caused division across the fanbase since the album version release, which was reworked from the initial single. Regardless, the album version is played and it was a crowd pleaser, with the audience still amped from the lucid introduction to what became a night of sensory delight. Thirdly, we were thrusted into ‘Nangs’, with a currents themed visual backdrop and slick synth work that felt like entering a void. This song is criminally short, and it was again live, but it was so good that we all wanted longer. After covering The Slow Rush and Currents, we finally got our first cut off Lonerism, with ‘Mind Mischief’ (a personal favourite as of late).
All the performances from Lonerism felt extra crisp as Tame Impala had just celebrated 10 years since its release. In fact, I write this as I listen to Lonerism on my turntable, after purchasing the LP from the merchandise trailer at the venue and completing my Tame Impala collection. These songs did sound more significant as they celebrated the milestone appropriately. The band had just played Lonerism in its entirety at the Desert Daze music festival in the USA only a couple weeks prior; so it had extra punch. With ‘Mind Mischief’s underlying beat, the drummer swapped kits and pounded out a firm foundation for the rest of the instrumentation to launch off. Very much a highlight from the opening songs.
We then went back to The Slow Rush as Kevin introduced a song that did not previously exist when they were last in New Zealand – ‘Breathe Deeper’. This song is one of the gems found in The Slow Rush, it features an incredibly danceable riff. It’s all about the progression leading to a subdued break, before launching into a driving instrumental finish in which the live performance was given the premier treatment of a unique lighting feature. As the concluding phase launched, streams of laser lights embossed a colourful outline of a rectangle onto the screen at the back of the stage. This rectangle was not stagnant, however. Multitudes of laser rays intermittently flickered at pace and moved about the screen to create all sorts of wild shapes and formations to add texture to the already highly dynamic song. This was one of the first major peaks in the performance, and there were a few.
Things calmed down with the emotional ‘Posthumous Forgiveness’ afterwards. A tender song about Kevin’s late father, who influenced his musical interest but sadly never got to witness his ascension to chart-topping and genre defining success. At the conclusion of this one, Kevin took the moment to hype the audience back up after the slower number, saying “Alright Auckland, time to switch up gears a bit!” I think we all knew what he meant; ‘Elephant’. This one stomped more than usual, with an elongated intro riff, before Kevin finally broke into the first lyrics. Built up off the long intro, the song took no prisoners as it exploded with tempo unheard of until that point in the concert. It was the light show that took this song to the stratosphere, as lasers synced with the music, moving about quickly, adding energy into the crowd.
‘Lost in Yesterday’ featured off the back of this ripper, and it was incredibly solid to say the least. The visuals were mesmerising and drew your attention for the entire duration. The next high point though was ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, which saw the debut feature of the donut lighting rig. The ring of lights began its descent towards the stage floor before tilting on angles and exposing various colours to the audience. This one really hit those notes that sent chills down your entire body. It’s got flexibility built into the song structure that allows the song to be extended out for a jam, and they did. Kevin added a solo break in the middle which was improvised, echoing and mind bending, and it was definitely taking us all higher. A momentary lapse of all sound occurred before an implosion of smoke and flashing lights. A final soirée from the heady psychedelic composition saw the song out with gusto. Pacing in this concert was key to its success, as some of the longer cuts, such as ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, featured more of a rush then float, followed either by another rush to conclude or sometimes living up to the tour name, with a slower rush. The band did a brilliant job at bringing tempo down but managing to hold tension in the drum kit or the bend of the guitar strings long enough to create that ecstatic release right at the end.
Following this song, the band walked off the stage to many fans’ dismay, after only nine songs. Of course, it couldn’t be the end, as the circle tilted to face the crowds and swirled with colour. Hints of the ‘Gossip’ interlude from Currents washed the audience as the anticipation built again. Suddenly, the entire ring fired with white light accompanied by the enormous weight of the distorted fuzz from ‘Past Life’s pre chorus. A massive tease. The band took their time and came back to much enthusiasm.
What better way to begin this next half with none other than ‘Let It Happen’, the hyper-progressive house-infused classic. The circle is placed so that it circumvents the visual of an eye on the screen, which blinks in sync with the music. This all built up to the drop where Kevin asked if we were ready. He let it rip, the synthesisers droned, with backing vocoder from Jay Watson, and the confetti cannons went off. Returning to Lonerism, we finally get ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, in which Kevin departed the elevated platform on the stage and walked around the front to address various parts of the audience, a little more relaxed and at ease after the recent blast. This song is of course a fan favourite, so again, the reception was incredibly welcoming as hands rose above and waved towards the band. Kevin even offered the mic a few times for us all to sing along.
The congas then came into play, as they featured on the boogie number ‘Is it True’, which got the crowd jiving. The energy somehow just kept building the entire show. The band curated a setlist that offered much to quench our thirst that had been brewing over the years. The song transitioned smoothly into an extended edition of ‘Glimmer’, where we received a renewed house vibe as the bassline truncated its way for a little while and embellishments on the keys caressed our ears. But the real tenderness came in the form of the formidable ‘Eventually’, which is famously emotional for its themes of letting go, being happy for someone despite the pain you may be feeling and synonymous with healing overall. This was personally my favourite song of the night, as it laid us all down in a sound bath embraced by the gentle synths of the song that underlined the vulnerable lyrics. It was hopeful sounding and the lights swayed behind the band, which created a tender atmosphere perfectly. The outro was drawn out and it provided a feeling of great resolve. Chills once more, and maybe a tear or two.
We then have a beat before Kevin introduced the next song, the exclusive performance from his first album, Innerspeaker, and it’s the magnum opus, ‘Runway, Houses, City, Clouds’. This was another highlight as Kevin clicked the overdrive pedal for the edgier sound of late 60’s psych distortion, which hallmarked Tame Impala’s beginnings. The song featured an almighty break down, where the drums were put into the spotlight as Kevin’s favourite element of any song. The fills were hard and fast, clocking up laps around the bars of the song, and led to a crashing silence. A spotlight then emerged on Kevin, illuminating him as he took his time with a considered, twisted solo that featured copious feedback and reverb. It was hazy and blissful, as he coaxed in the rest of the band for a final bursting wall of sound to see out the song with an extra-long outro. At that moment, everyone was thinking “how does it keep topping this?” When so many of Kevin’s songs are euphoric beyond belief, it is quite the ambitious task to soar above each peak that you set, but that’s what they achieved. I cannot really explain how, other than they know where to focus their energy and using the best production features any concertgoer could ask for. ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’ began with a few bars of a melodic piano to ease us into it. It was a stellar performance as to be expected and it finishes with more confetti and smoke. Kevin raised his guitar, took off the strap and gave us a wave as the band departed the stage once more.
The various lights remained and the crowd got a little antsy as we started chanting for more. The band let us stew and then finally returned to an uproar from the audience. Kevin thanked us all again and said they had two more songs to play, then exclaimed without title “this is song number one.” ‘The Less I Know The Better’, the billion times streamed single, playfully expanded into the air, as the instruments came alive once more. It was another chance for Kevin to interact with the crowd as its feeling a little more relaxed, its easy-going vibe was serene and the crowd helped the band carry the song, singing each word. This was the big hit that a lot of people were waiting for, and I don’t think anyone was disappointed. Looking around, it was all smiles and hands waving in the air.
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Then came the final song, and unfortunately, this really was the last one, but boy was it good. Bookending the entire show, Tame Impala chose ‘One More Hour’ as their final act. The long closer from The Slow Rush was grandeur in its intimate moments and bold when it reached its peaks. The bass and kick drum struck heavily on the downbeats during the out-bursts in the build and the piano contrasted in the finer moments. This led to a great resolve; Kevin swapped guitars for a Fender semi-acoustic, which looks like a Stratocaster in shape. He filled out the back end of the song with this instrument and sent vibrations out in all directions, enthralling the audience one last time. The confetti hit, the lights went nuts and with the sound of the audience cheering and clapping, it was one hell of a minute. It all ended on a hopeful sounding chord, which saw the band off, waving to the audience. The spectacle had ceased, and what a show it was. The word serendipitous comes to mind. It was like nothing you have ever experienced, as time did seem to do funny things when you were absorbed by the sensory overload. It was truly magical, and sometimes even spiritual. I can only hope more people get to experience this and I sure hope that I will see Tame Impala again, in all their glory.