Since 2007, Kevin Parker’s Australian modern psych wanderers Tame Impala have gently vibed their way around the world, steadily building to this run of arena blowouts.
The room is not full, but no one seems to care. Bathed in a multi-hued light show, Tame Impala look and sound the part.
“I can’t see you. Turn on the lights!” shouts frontman/songwriter Parker, only to be shocked by the sight and sound of the responding Mexican ‘roar’ that greets him. “I love a wrap-around audience!” he quips.
Recent third album Currents plays well in this setting – its manipulated Krautrock drones combining with gorgeous golden-era psychedelic tones. The warped 80s pop clicks of The Moment kick in and, as Parker channels a guitar solo through an effects box we can only assume is labelled ‘Knight Rider’, belting out his “it’s getting closeeeer!” refrain through a storm of strobe lighting, even the most cynical hairs on Prog’s arms rise.
The arrival of the stomping opening riff of Elephant in the room causes the night’s biggest stir on the floor and dancing in the seat rows, but it’s quelled by the self-reflective lullaby of Yes I’m Changing. The crowd begin to flag and even the frontmost throngs are dulled to a mild sway. It becomes apparent that the problem with playing dreamy psych rock for 90 minutes is that it sends everyone to sleep. The band, though, rally with a more energetic Apocalypse Dreams and an encore is demanded.
”In any other city I would ask them to sing along, but I don’t have to do that in Manchester, right?” Oh Kevin, we bet you say that to all the conurbations. Fortunately, the opening line of late-era-Beatles-style pop anthem Feels Like We Only Go Backwards causes something of a freak-out, and even incites some brave soul to light a flare. It burns bold in the thick of the crowd as the fat synth of Currents plodder New Person, Same Old Mistakes marches on.
“Goodnight Manchester. We love you, we love you and we love you!” yells Parker, bidding adieu to the assembled masses. As paper fragments flitter through the remaining purple and green beams, the city returns the sentiment – and heads to bed.