TAME IMPALA / KIRIN J CALLINAN, 22ND MAY 2014, OXFORD ACADEMY
There's only so far that a bad shirt and what might be euphemistically described as an idiosyncratic haircut can get you. Unfortunately for us, in the case of Kirin J Callinan it's the other side of the world, on tour with fellow Aussies Tame Impala. In truth, he deserves some kind of trophy for managing, via the medium of pretentious electro-rock, to locate an improbable midpoint between MGMT and Rammstein - though that trophy should then be used to bludgeon him to death for crimes against ears.
If Tame Impala have brought Callinan along just to make themselves look better, they needn't have bothered. Apocalypse dreams are what I was having during Callinan's slot, but the song of that name, just two tracks into the headliners' set, is stunning, setting the bar for what proves to be a stupendously good show.
If the Flaming Lips hadn't recently covered 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds', Tame Impala - essentially Kevin Parker and four others who help to take what was originally his bedroom project out into the wider world - would be the missing link between the Beatles and Wayne Coyne's crew. With the latter (who happen to be former collaborators and tourmates) gradually shuffling further and further off into the leftfield gloom, the more central ground previously occupied by The Soft Bulletin is fair game, and Tame Impala have the psychedelic visuals, the bobbing basslines and, most importantly, the songs to capture it.
Or to put it another way, they're a glimpse into a parallel universe in which Altamont never happened and, as the 1960s gave way to the 1970s, the musician's drug of choice never changed from LSD to coke. Everything they do seems steeped in the hippy ideals of freeing your mind and opening yourself up to new experiences. "I tried Fosters for the first time today", announces one band member. "You know they don't even sell it in Australia."
It turns out that pseudo-Aussie cooking lager isn't the only thing Tame Impala try for the first time today, the live debut of Lonerism bonus track 'Beverly Laurel' receiving a warm response from a capacity crowd much more rabidly excited than you'd imagine given the enveloping fog of weed smoke. They're at their most animated for thumping footstomper 'Elephant', whose riff and solo are collectively bellowed out with such gusto that, like 'Seven Nation Army', you sense it could be destined to be immortalised in terrace chants. Admittedly, theirs is a relatively safe pop-psych that (tragically) appeals more to Noel Gallagher than it does to Julian Cope, but it's so superbly realised that you just can't find fault.
If I was to be critical of the gig itself, it would be that they perhaps peak a bit too early - but then every high has to have some kind of comedown. At the beginning of the evening, Parker admits to having a heavy cold and fearing "the danger of a croakfest", but by the end he's beaming: "Tonight's gone a million times better than I could have hoped". Our friend Mr Callinan aside, I'm not disagreeing.