Tame Impala: Live Versions – Last October, I was lucky enough to catch an otherworldly Tame Impala and Flaming Lips show at Terminal 5 in NYC. Looking back, I remember Tame Impala’s relatively simple set being visually overshadowed by The Flaming Lips’ overzealous theatrics including a surprise appearance by Yoko Ono herself. Now, I love spectacle as much as the next guy, but what I really walked away from the show with was how amazed I was at Tame Impala’s more musical, toned down set. They didn’t need the theatrics; they put on a fantastic show full of sublime psych jams that I could have listened to over and over again. Thanks to a few happy thoughts and a bit of Record Store Day magic, I’m able to recapture some of that live excitement with Tame Impala’s Live Versions, even if it’s in an analog way.
As part of record store day 2014, the Australian quintet released a 9-track live album of their 2013 show in Chicago, IL. It was only released to participating record stores as a limited edition vinyl. After finally getting my hands on the recordings, the first thing that struck me was how brilliantly the album was mixed. Every guitar part, every vocal effect, etc. came through crystal clear, as well as the perfect balance of audience reaction which help to capture the energy of the venue. The live album opens with ‘Endors Toi’ from Tame Impala’s incredible 2013 album Lonerism. Normally a 3-minute psych rager, the live version of ‘Endors…’ is gratifyingly drawn out with an extended synth jam that’s an absolute eargasm. It’s one of many times during Tame Impala’s live set where you can lose yourself in a beautifully hazy wall of sound.
Most of Live Versions comes from Lonerism, with two tracks from their debut Innerspeaker, one from self-titled EP, and a brief instrumental jam called ‘Sestri Levante.’ One of the most exciting moments in Tame Impala’s set in when they play ‘Half Full Glass of Wine,’ which is double the length of the original recording. Kevin and the band send this song into the stratosphere with a series of solos that remove themselves so brilliantly from the original melody that you’ll be shocked at how well they manage to tie it back into the song so seamlessly. A few other noteworthy moments have to be ‘Mind Mischief’ and an short but amazing (though not vocally perfect) rendition of one of the best rock songs I’ve heard in ages, ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.’
The great thing about Tame Impala is that they really do offer something special when it comes to their live show. A lot of live albums end up sounding so similar to the recorded versions that they’re barely even worth listening to. It’s a testament to a band’s skill, especially one with as many sonic intricacies as Tame Impala, if they can pull off sounding exactly like a record. However, real artistry presents itself when a band can do that and then take it to the next level, which is exactly what Live Versions has done…9.0/10