Securing a front-row spot for Tame Impala was no small feat. I had to sacrifice seeing Janelle Monae, Childish Gambino and, to a lesser extent, Bring Me The Horizon. I had to remain standing in a cramped crowd, shuffling slowly forward for three-and-a-half hours. I had to accept the fact that Tame Impala’s liberal use of smoke would come at the cost of frequent plumes shooting directly into my face. And I had to do it all on my own, as my friends had opted to see Childish Gambino instead. Many around me passed out, their sudden syncope perhaps attributable to dehydration, intoxication, the stressful effect of being trapped in a sea of sweaty limbs with no easy means of egress — a sensation I myself began to feel more and more acutely as time wore on — or a combination of the above. Yet in the end, all of the discomfort was worth it.
When Tame Impala finally took the stage, bathed in white and blue lights while the vaguely seraphic outro of “List of People (To Try And Forget About)” played, Kevin Parker had only one question: “Are you guys ready?”
The band came out swinging, opening with fan favorite “Let It Happen.” Halfway through the song, Kevin took the opportunity to officially introduce the band and extend the traditional formalities expected of a live performance (“How are we doing tonight, Lollapalooza? We’re Tame Impala. So glad to be here,” or something like that). Soon after the pleasantries, the song exploded into a dazzling technicolor frenzy.
Kevin Parker and company were obscured by smoke and lasers for the majority of the show, their figures cast as faceless, flashing silhouettes behind their instruments. Aside from the occasional remark, they remained taciturn between songs. The stage was backdropped by the Chicago skyline, the dark concrete and distant lights a beautiful contrast to the synthetic kaleidoscope on stage. It was the perfect stage presence to befit the lonely, nocturnal psychedelia of the group.
Their live renditions were largely faithful to the studio versions, with a few exceptions: “Mind Mischief” was augmented with a burning guitar solo and extended outro. During “Gossip,” the band left the stage, and a vivid rainbow ring of light descended upon the stage from high above. The live version of the song was punctuated with bursts of bass and static, during which the technicolor lights switched to a blinding white. “Elephant” benefitted the most from the high production value of the performance — the energetic song was rendered awe-inspiring through the generous use of lasers. The sight of Kevin Parker shooting light beams out of his eyes is one of the best SFX displays I’ve ever seen at a concert.
The show peaked during “Eventually.” It felt like the crowd was picking up everything that Tame Impala was putting down. I was totally sober but felt as though my consciousness were altered all the same. The combination of Tame Impala’s engrossing set and the massive crowd I was engulfed in rendered me helpless to do anything but watch — a freeing sensation.
During a rare moment of crowd interaction, Kevin Parker dedicated their performance of “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?” to A$AP Rocky (who had sampled the track on his 2018 single “Sundress”). “Get home safe, dude” he said, which feels more like something you would say if your friend is heading home after having a few too many drinks, rather than incarcerated for assault in a foreign prison. Still, it was a nice sentiment to share.
One thing was very clear throughout — Tame Impala took this thing seriously. It was a flawless show, from the production to the musicianship on display. The band moved with confidence and precision, but they never felt stiff or robotic. It was one of the most impressive live performances I have been lucky enough to witness, and was the high- water mark of Lollapalooza 2019.