Tame Impala Delivers Another Stellar Set at White Oak Music Hall

Tame Impala played a career spanning two-hour set last night at White Oak Music Hall.
Tame Impala played a career spanning two-hour set last night at White Oak Music Hall. Photo by Robyn Tuazon
“I’m not going to go on for long about it, but I know there’s a weird feeling in Houston right now, and my heart breaks for what happened at Astroworld a few days ago. But I know that you guys will take care of each other and we’ll take care of you and we’ll all take care of each other. And we’ll still have a really fuckin’ good time.”

Kevin Parker, mastermind of Australian psych-rock band Tame Impala, addressed a sold-out White Oak Music Hall on last weekend's tragedy four songs deep in an exhilarating set. That weird feeling was apparent upon mention, the way Hurricane Harvey’s remnants once were when touring acts would refer to it onstage: in a space designated for entertainment, the crowd decibels lower as a city is reminded of its recent trauma. But when Parker stated the intentions for the crowd, entrusting them to look after one another, you could’ve sworn he was one of us – and the house loved him for it.

Save for the two-hour set’s end, there was little mention of the pandemic either — perhaps the biggest lens through which audiences are experiencing live music’s return. In removing Astroworld and COVID-19 from the equation, the biggest elephant in the room last night was mid-set standout “Elephant.” Though its presentation remains identical to previous outings, its opening thumping and rumbling working its way toward a manic bass line’s descent into madness giving way to a laser light show garnered one of the night’s biggest reactions. And coming out of White Oak’s sound system, it sounded damn near threatening.
It was just one of a plethora of gratifying back catalog moments from the band.

“Holy shit, Houston likes a singalong,” said Parker, in a fair assessment, after a massive Monday night karaoke moment ensued during Lonerism’s “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” Parker’s guitar solo on InnerSpeaker’s “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds,” with its noise drenched lyricism, was the kind you remember while waiting for your Lyft after the show. But Currents’ opening track “Let It Happen” remains otherworldly. Navigating its dynamic peaks and valleys all the way up to its drop does a number on your dopamine levels. Cue the confetti cannons for some metaphorical damage.
click to enlarge Tame Impala played hits like "Elephant," "Let It Happen," and "Breathe Deeper" last night at White Oak. - PHOTO BY ROBYN TUAZON
Tame Impala played hits like "Elephant," "Let It Happen," and "Breathe Deeper" last night at White Oak.
Photo by Robyn Tuazon
More introspective cuts from 2020’s The Slow Rush demonstrated the most mystique in a show loaded in fanfare. Emergency siren synths on “Posthumous Forgiveness” struck those internalized dystopian wounds of last year. (And the year after.) Parker’s best vocals of the night resonated in set closer “One More Hour,” as he beautifully phrased the lyrics: “As long as I can spend some time alone” like a mantra only an introvert could cling to after the pandemic. His voice, in its most bare form of the evening, beamed inquisitive and childlike, pining for maturity without consequence before the stereo reprimands the moment with its rattles of storms to come.

Last night’s victory laps around the band’s first three albums alongside selections from last year’s The Slow Rush, a yacht-pop leaning record that trades yester-decade’s Lennon comparisons for Supertramp likenings, places Tame at what appears to be its earliest stage of being a legacy act. There’s new material to promote, hits to replay, production value to deliver, and connections with fans to make. This Slow Rush outing accomplishes just that.

The tour may vary little from their 2019 White Oak appearance, but its Slow Rush set list additions breathe new life into a show where songs sometimes feel like a machine, locked into a production grid bound by its lighting rig and hallucinogenic visuals on the stage’s screens.

That spectacle, though, is likely what’s elevated the act into playing arenas in plenty of cities on this tour – which makes seeing a band like Tame Impala in an intimate setting like the Lawn at White Oak such a treat. Because at Toyota Center, you can’t holler at Kevin Parker from the floor to shotgun a beer at the top of the encore. But at the Lawn you can. And at the Lawn, he may not shotgun said beer before launching into “The Less I Know the Better” — but he’ll chug it. And the crowd, now a house party living room, will enable him. And he’ll throw an empty beer can into the pit and he’ll say:

“All right let’s start the song. If I burp the whole way through, you guys can just fill in the gaps, right?”
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