Tame Impala @ the Forum on 03.11.20 … or the final show (before lockdown)

It’s high time to finally get this Tame Impala post up and out. I’ve metaphorically pondered it for near two and a half months. It’s literally collected layer upon layer of pixel dust on my home system, concurrently occupying a fair slice of storage on my iPhone’s video limits. And back at the start of this month, it’s the one show that provoked me to start blogging again on this here blog.

Not surprisingly, Tame Impala’s been at the top of my concerts-of-yore list, since this particularly show inadvertently (and seemingly) represents my final live music experience of 2020. I obviously didn’t plan things that way. But Covid-19 has done a right fucked job of cocking up anything and everything fun, which in my case means pretty much no more live shows for the foreseeable future.

With that in mind, I’m actually quite amazed that Tame Impala’s second sold-out night at the Forum actually took place at all. There were more than a few moments prior to starting, where I thought they’d pull the plug. Maybe that was PTSD from their short-lived Desert Daze performance in 2018, when an unforeseen lightning storm cut short their set after a mere three songs.

Mostly, I think it had to do with how the evening began. My friend, and mostly reliable concert-going companion, opted to sit out this show, fearing the implications of virus contagion. Fortunately, I was able to sell her ticket. But at the last minute, the recipient of said-coveted floor ticket also chose not to go, citing the very same precautionary reason.

Then, while I was queued and waiting to gain entry to the general admission floor, there was the trio of WTF news that hit all forms and forums of the internet. Tom Hanks and his wife tested positive. The NBA decided to cancel their season. And our ill-prepared government instigated their controversial travel ban.

I learned all that in the span of roughly 10-15 minutes. Not sure how it’s dissemination actually played out in real-time. But that’s how I experienced it, all while watching everyone around me do the same.

So like I said, there was a lot of credible evidence leading me to believe that Tame Impala might once again get cut short.

For these very reasons, and from here on out, this Tame Impala performance is the one I’m always going to remember. I mean, it was just plain surreal. And I’m not talking about the show itself. That was fantastic, pure acidic technicolor psychedelia, rockin’, stompin’, groovin’ and peakin’ in pure, ultra-refined musicianship and aural mastery.

I’m referring instead to the juxtaposition of epic rock concert, meshed against the backdrop of impending and inevitable pandemic lockdown. It felt really strange watching this immense audio-visual spectacle unfold before my eyes and ears, while everything outside Inglewood’s Forum appeared to be spinning rapidly out of control and towards seeming Armageddon. That’s clearly an exaggeration. But really …. look where we are today.

It was also quite interesting that frontman Kevin Parker never once made mention of any of these disconcerting worldly events during the show. At most, he just talked about wanting everyone to have a good time.

Nothing wrong with that, I guess. And by that point, we all probably needed a night of pure peace and paisley escapism. But like I said, it put an obtuse spin on the whole affair, which personally, took me about half the show to shake off, before truly settling into their dream-bent psychedelic groove.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it. In fact, this performance ranks as my favorite Tame Impala experience thus far. I’ve seen them three times before. But this one really stood out as being exceptional.

Tame Impala were in top form, tight, lean, and supremely confident. Parker has always been a masterful musician, pretty much crafting his tunes as a one-man band, when it comes to his studio albums. But with his long-standing live crew, his music really soars, reaching groove-induced, awe-inspiring heights, transcendental, expansive, meditative, hallucinatory, and ultimately, mind-blowing.

Even the newer material from “The Slow Rush,” which admittedly I’ve held a steadily lukewarm reaction, sounded relevant and urgent, albeit in a laid-back casual sense, slotting in seamlessly between catalogue classics and deeper cuts. The alternating mixture of smoothly spaced neon electronica and hypnotically blistered psychedelic haze gelled in a way I wouldn’t have anticipated, keeping the aural flow fluid and engaging.

And visually … well, that was just pure saturnalian splendor, a vibrant and color-warped trip ‘n slide blast of unending spectacle. The massive wall-sized LED screen and infinite array of pinpoint laser beams practically melted your eyeballs off, flashing an oracular bombast of strobing abstraction, topped off by a massive tilting saucer of beaming lights and enveloping fog.

The evening started with this crazy sun-like moonrise scene (or maybe it’s the other way around), cycling from bottom to top in increasing repetitive frequency, until it became an elongated oscillation of digital noise. This lead into the new album’s intro track, “One More Year,” which just struck me as all-around better, thanks to the aforementioned prologue of cyclical metaphor and pure phase. Here’s a sample of it.

Tame Impala began the 2nd sold out night at the Forum in Inglewood on 03.11.20, with this giant sun/moon-rise cycle, followed by a few bits from “One More Year.”

That certainly situated my mind somewhere between lukewarm-anxiety and uninhibited elation – the former thanks to the world’s largest epileptic projection, the latter due to a lackadaisically cool rendition of said-opening track.

I’ve always felt the album version to be a bit monosyllabic, not necessarily flat, but slightly underwhelming. I felt none of that here, instead drifting blissfully towards a more contemplative state, a chill-out mediation on the day-to-day, if you will, which I might add, seemed quite appropriate, given all things.

The good vibes kept coming, when three tracks into their set, Tame Impala imparted a rather dream-gazed, space rockin’ rendition of “Reality in Motion,” from their third and arguably most popular album “Currents.” This one’s also one of my favorites from that 2015 release. It’s got such a uniquely trippy sound, both percussively compressed and melodically expansive, all at once. Here’s a taste of that.

Tame Impala perform “Reality in Motion” at the Forum in Inglewood on 03.11.20.

Near the midpoint is where I finally shed some of that back-seated anxiety I mentioned earlier, that nervous undercurrent floating beneath the fun and freewheeling sensations of being out and about, thanks to what was soon-to-be the SoCal chapter of the Covid-19 crisis.

The much needed shift came from the warm roll and tumbling glide of the percussive “Lost in Yesterday,” one of “The Slow Rush” smooth groove tracks I actually took an immediate liking to, upon first hearing it. It’s such a deceptively simple track. And I find myself literally getting lost in retrospective thought, whenever I hear it on headphones.

I even caught myself unintentionally reminiscing about past experiences while experiencing it live, which I realize is a bit on the nose. But that also could have been due to the state of the evening, which I’ve already explained. Either way, it’s curious.

And right when the mind was properly drifted, the pace instantly flipped, seamlessly morphing into the hefty fuzz and buzz of the “Lonerism” classic “Elephant.” It’s safe to say this was the night’s undeniable highlight, judging by the crowd’s untethered raucousness. It’s also the moment Tame Impala went full psychedelic rock, pulling out all the paisley pulse-pounding stops, riffing the guitar fantastic, and blasting the Forum with laser-sighted visual overload.

Check out the one-two punch of “Lost in Yesterday” and “Elephant.”

Tame Impala perform “Lost in Yesterday,” followed by a rousing rendition of “Elephant” at the Forum in Inglewood on 03.11.20.

Another “Slow Rush” track followed, “Breathe Deeper,” which I regrettably didn’t capture, and wish I did, now that I’ve had time to let the show, as well as the new album, sink in and soak properly. At this point, I’m pretty sure I was in sensory escapist mode.

Unfortunately, that also lead me to skip over filming most of another great “Lonerism” track, “Apocalypse Dreams.” But I did get the cosmic instrumental jam at its tail end, mainly thanks to the audaciously giant UFO-styled circular array of lights and fog that descended on the band, strobing in hypnotic oscillations and multicolored rays and haze. I mean, that crazy-ass thing was impossible to ignore.

Tame Impala perform the psychedelic outro for “Apocalypse Dreams” at the Forum in Inglewood on 03.11.20.

It’s moments such as this, where I’m thankful that a band such as Tame Impala can embrace the on-stage spectacle.

After a bit of a visual reprieve, which felt natural and necessary following such bombast, Kevin and Co. slipped into a more downtempo groove, first with the classic stroll of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” followed by the slow-rolling psychedelic, mood-induced creeper, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”

Tame Impala perform “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” at the Forum in Inglewood on 03.11.20.

The evening came to a fitting conclusion with the ultimate peakadelic anthem “Let It Happen,” which was punctuated by a massive glittering confetti explosion, as well as the return of the giant tilting UFO-styled ring of lights, topped off by some truly acidic and solarized multi-hued visuals.

Perhaps, that was the message for the evening, or maybe for the days ahead. I’m talking about the song’s title, not the staggering light-show spectacular … although, that could probably work too. I’m probably reading too far into it. But it is food for thought.

Tame Impala perform “Let It Happen” at the Forum in Inglewood on 03.11.20.

Of course, that wasn’t really the end of it. Tame Impala returned for two more songs, “The Less I Know the Better” and “Eventually,” the first encore entry being featured here.

I was sort of drifting towards the exit by this point, so the footage does a bit of focal walk and wander. Reality was starting to return, and the idea of escaping the Forum before the crowds seemed like a good idea at the time, especially given the oncoming Covid-19 circumstances.

And now that I’m thinking of it, maybe there’s unintended messaging in this closing pair, as well. Again, most likely reading too deep. Yet, hindsight in the time of Corona has me hypersensitive to any and all thoughts and ideas, so maybe not. I’ll let you speculate and cogitate for yourself.

Here’s “The Less I Know the Better.”

Tame Impala perform “The Less I Know the Better” at the Forum in Inglewood on 03.11.20.

That’s all I’ve got for this unintended “final” show of 2020. Who knows? Maybe we’ll all get lucky, and live music will return sound and safely by year’s end. But judging from all the cancellations, and 2021 rescheduling, I’m not holding my still uninfected breathe.

There is one lasting detail from the night that I haven’t been able to shake. As I was exiting, wondering what world I was ultimately returning to, a security guard, friendly and smiling, was wishing everyone a good and safe night, then nonchalantly added, “It’s the last one.”

At the time, I wasn’t sure if she meant the last show of the year, last show at the Forum, or the last Tame Impala show in L.A.. Seeing where we are today, it’s turned out to be all of the above.

Oh well, I’ll count myself lucky to have prematurely wrapped up my concert going year with this memorable Tame Impala experience.

Tame Impala light up the Forum in Inglewood for the 2nd of two sold out shows on 03.11.20.
Tame Impala end the night with a blast of lasers and confetti on 03.11.20.