As the summer of 2019 winds down, everyone seems to have the summer of 1969 on the brain: We almost celebrated the 50th anniversary of Woodstock (in Columbia, Md., of all places) and Quentin Tarantino’s latest stab at hysterical/historical fiction, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” takes place back then, too.
Nostalgia for those days fuels Tame Impala, the brainchild of Kevin Parker that played the Anthem on Saturday night. For about a decade, the Australian polymath has been surfing the time stream, venturing into psychedelia with a choir boy’s voice, impeccable melodies and wall-of-sound sonics.
As he sang during one of the concert’s several confetti-cannon concussions, “It feels like I only go backwards, baby.” And while Tame Impala goes backward, the audience undulated forward, entranced by digital vistas, orbs, infinite roads and a nonstop laser light show that aimed to induce altered states.
Parker and his backing band jammed through much of 2015’s “Currents” and the highlights of 2012’s “Lonerism,” his falsetto ringing out like a lost Bee Gee. In kind, the show opened with a double dose of disco: the nearly eight-minute long “Let It Happen,” about lying back and accepting the inevitable, and the sun-kissed “Patience,” about losing track of time, that great force which “takes from everyone.” The latter shimmers and stomps, perhaps hinting at the direction of the band’s forthcoming album.
For an act so fixated on chemical enhancement, though, Tame Impala is precise in its explorations of the pocket, including the blues-rock homage of “Led Zeppelin,” the glam groove of “Elephant,” the Pink Floydian slip of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and the yacht-rock reverie of the band’s latest single, “Borderline.”
Lyrically, “Borderline” begins to glimpse the outer limits of a stoned-and-dosed existence. “Caught between the tides of pain and rapture,” Parker wonders, “Will I be known and loved? Is there one that I trust?” as he starts to “sober up.”
That turn was an exciting one during a show that often leaves the audience comfortably numb, with Tame Impala as the melodic background music of adventures of the mind. For all the psychedelic flirtations, there was something staid about the show, like listening to prog-rock in a planetarium, or buying a tie-dye shirt at Urban Outfitters.
What would happen if Parker really turned on, tuned in and dropped out, and took his show to mind-expanding — not just narcotizing — heights? In “Once Upon a Time,” Brad Pitt’s character smokes an acid-dipped cigarette and alters history in a burst of violent glory. Tame Impala could use a hit of the same — not to get violent, but to get really freaking weird.