Yeasayer + Tame Impala - Oxford Art Factory (06.10.08)

Actually arriving in time for a change to see the support act, Tame Impala, I must say these Perth boys are different to what I was expecting. They are, after all, Modular’s latest prodigal children, so the concept of "dance music" is the first thing that comes to mind. But instead, they seem to be focused on impressive psychedelic rock jams. I don’t think they are at the musical point that they themselves want to be (yet), but I reckon they'll certainly get there, so one should definitely keep a firm eye on these Perth boys. Now that my expectation has been appropriately skewed, I look forward to seeing them again supporting MGMT.

But this time around, it’s Brooklyn’s Yeasayer with whom they are supporting, one of the latest “oh I know and love this band therefore I have excellent music taste” sort of experiences. And you know what, if you do like this band then you do have excellent music taste, because I think they are pretty damn excellent indeed. I was initially introduced to them a few months ago by a mate in the UK who was so in love with their debut album All Hour Cymbals that he basically wanted to have their children. Despite such being physically impossible for both he and myself, I most definitely felt the same way when I first listened to the album.

Their layered, impressively produced numbers are reminiscent of works by bands such as TV on the Radio and Animal Collective, although they really are in a world of their own – both lyrically and musically. With the former, ridiculously poetic lyrics like “We can pickle the pain into blue ribbon winners at county contests” are something straight out of the Absurdist movement. And with the latter, almost every song on the album brings something different to the table: long instrumental moments that remind you some musicians still enjoy to experiment with their instruments, guitar riffs full of Middle Eastern influence (always amazing to hear interpreted on a Western recording), and plenty of unexpected effects to keep you guessing and wanting more.

Now the reason I bring up the album in such detail is that the contrast between the album and live show is very important, and probably would have dictated whether you loved or hated the show. Naturally, with so many layers placed into each track, pure replication would never be possible on the live stage unless the band were lazy and opted to go with a carload of pre-recordings from a computer. For some, this was exactly what they wanted... replication of the purest kind. But I had no interest in that. I could tell that these guys were amazing musicians, and with their live performances starting to become something legendary on the internet, I wanted to see exactly what these guys could do with their songs in a 100% live setting. And that’s exactly what we got.

Lead singer Chris Keating would often be on the floor during the gig, playing with effects pedals, jumping back and forth between other (larger) effect machines and his keyboard. Anand Miller was an very impressive guitar player, especially when the Middle Eastern influence came into play in tracks such as "Waves," but he too jumped between effects machines, keyboards and way too many guitar pedals for one man. He even threw a bit of percussion in there, with a giant bell and the obligatory tambourine thrown into the mix. One would imagine this guy was the “prodigal” one of his high school music class. Ira Wolf Tuton stuck to the bass guitar, a ridiculously beautiful fretless bass guitar which he was absolutely destroying. That guy can play some mean and impressive bass, with a similar amount of pedals to back him up. Then you had Luke Fasano on drums and percussion, who himself had some impressive moments, with one of his cymbals looking like a tree had fallen on it several times, possibly eaten by a badger; a small bit of gaffer tape the seeming solution to fix it up.

Very nice.

So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that these guys put a LOT of effort into their performances, with pretty much every sound you hear being produced on the stage... or at the very least manipulated by the multitude of nameless effect machines. And boy do I respect them for it. As one would expect, most of the songs thus sounded almost unrecognisable at times from the original recordings... much of which sounded on purpose, with plenty of bridging melodies thrown in to keep people guessing what was coming next. I also imagine much of the changes have come about as the songs have naturally evolved over the hundreds of times they've played them live. I enjoyed every minute of the show they put on, and the guys seemed to enjoy it as well, Chris often stealing beverages from the girls in front of him, and even an iPhone, having quite the smile on his face for doing so.

As you might note from the set list, they played quite a bit of new material, and all of which sounded amazing. I really can’t wait for a new LP now... although I realise that it’s probably not going to sound anything like what it sounded like in the live setting by the time they get back into the recording studio.

While I can totally understand disappointment if someone went to the show expecting a note-for-note reproduction of the original material, I was blown away with everything they had to offer. I definitely hope they meant it when they said this was the best country they’d ever toured (“I knew it! Springfield is the best!”), because I can’t wait to see them again. With their humour in banter and musical, dare-I-say, genius, no two performances will ever be the same, and I really wish more shows were like that.

After all, isn’t that what live music is all about?