There’s a point, midway through Tame Impala’s headline set at London’s All Points East, where the party really starts. As a circular lighting rig descends over the stage, giving off steam like a strobing spaceship, an impressive, psychedelic light show begins, glimmering colours illuminating the stage. As the marvel finishes and floats back to the top of the stage, organ chords begin to play, building the tension for a huge moment and riling the crowd up. They’re not disappointed, being rewarded with a killer rendition of resounding festival anthem ‘Let It Happen’. The energy lifts: inhibitions lost, flares lit, the night well and truly underway.
That’s not to say that the Thursday at the festival was an otherwise vibeless occasion, but at times the energy did feet a little flat. It’s through no fault of the bands playing – the fact it’s a Thursday, the grey weather and an earlier downpour could all play a part. Throughout, though, punters are treated to a series of slick sets.
At the North Stage Working Men’s Club offer an assured, afternoon show of their razor-sharp post-punk. The locale of their set in a tent works particularly well, as their impressive light show is given the chance to shine despite it not yet being dark. Meanwhile, Dry Cleaning earn a sizeable crowd on the festival’s East Stage (or, main stage). “The next song is about a tortoise,” says vocalist Florence Shaw before new tune ‘Gary Ashby’, a sprightly cut from their upcoming album ‘Stumpwork’. But it’s ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’ – with its spiky guitars and Shaw’s deliciously deadpan delivery – that proves the set smasher.
Despite its subdued nature, the day’s also home to some masterclass festival performances. Both charmer Omar Apollo and the jubilant Caribou shine on the Ray-Ban West Stage. The former easily wins over the crowd. Explaining he can’t bounce around the stage as much as usual as he’s damaged his back – “I have scoliosis, bitch!” – he encourages them to get up and dancing instead. Later he recognises the chance to win over new fans by taking the time to introduce himself to those who’ve pitched up midway through. Not that everyone needs an introduction: a number of hardcore fans belt the words of the gorgeous ‘Invincible’ back to him.
Caribou, meanwhile, delight with a stacked set of festival anthems. And although it is a bit bleak to hear ‘Sun’ when not accompanied by dazzling sunshine, the quintessential summer outfit’s charm isn’t dampened by the grey skies: ‘Ravi’ sees a hefty proportion of the spectators enjoy a casual two-step as bright pink and blue visuals illuminating the stage, while the one-two of ‘Home’ and ‘You Can Do It’ delights.
Performing before Tame Impala on the East Stage is Caroline Polachek. After a stellar solo show at the Roundhouse last year, she brings a similar energy to the festival’s main stage. Dressed all in black, her powerful vocals and own-brand of ethereal alt-pop wins sing-a-longs from the crowd – particularly during the bridge of closing tune ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’. As she sings “Show me the banana (na-na-na-na-na)”, a fan whips out an inflatable banana for the occasion.
But yes: it’s the day’s headliners who steal the show. To mark Tame Impala’s entry to the stage, punters are shown a faux advert about a new drug called ‘Rushium”, with the white-coated salesperson urging you to take the pill that’ll change how you experience time. Beyond the tongue-in-cheek intro, though, this show truly showcases the Tame Impala live experience, with focus on both an intoxicating, bombastic show and the megalithic live force that Kevin Parker’s musical outfit have become.
The trippy intro subsides into ‘One More Year’, with Parker saying: “Well we finally made it back to London; I can’t tell you how long we waited for this.” It feels a long time coming – Tame Impala were due to play All Points East in 2020, and two years on they’ve returned to the capital for this headline moment.
Towering renditions of ‘Elephant’ (complete with lasers) and ‘Lost in Yesterday’ (accompanied by trippy video game visuals, and a “disco pit” opening up front) egg revellers on to get rowdy. Yet it’s with the killer run of ‘Let It Happen’, ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ and ‘Eventually’ that it all kicks off. Parker is on fine form, reading out the audience member’s signs (“We’ve got ‘Kevin’s Bitches’ over here – not my words!”; “Somebody is holding an iPhone that just says, ‘Daddy – I don’t know what that means”) and generally encouraging the crowd to get wild.
Returning for a triumphant encore of ‘The Less I Know the Better’ – which sees audience members who were skulking out early to avoid the rush sprinting back for the tune – and ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’, the band leave the audience on a high. It’s a testament to Parker and the gang and their killer live offering – even on an iffy day, they can win over a crowd.
Tame Impala played:
‘One More Year’
‘Lost in Yesterday’
‘Let It Happen’
‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’
‘Runway, Houses, City, Clouds’
‘The Less I Know the Better’
‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’