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The National, Tame Impala serve up contrasting flavors of rock at Starlight

Updated: 2013-10-14T04:54:55Z

By TIMOTHY FINN

The Kansas City Star

Friday’s concert at Starlight Theatre was a co-headlining show with bands whose sounds are as different as their geographic origins.

The opener was Tame Impala, a five-piece from Perth, Australia, that has its ways with shoe-gazing psychedelic rock. Kevin Parker is the band’s founder, frontman, guitarist and chief songwriter, and he spent much of the 70-minute set leading his mates through more than a dozen songs, each colored, embroidered and shaped with a variety of effects, most issued via the arsenal of pedals and gadgets at Parker’s disposal.

They performed before a large screen showing lime-green oscilloscopic images that reacted to the band’s rhythms and dynamics — an effect diminished initially by the waning daylight. It all fit with the narcotic, kaleidoscopic mood that remained throughout the set.

The band drew songs from its two full-length albums and its self-titled EP, and it illustrated the many ways Parker and his band can unleash collages of sounds and noises, rendering a variety of moods and soundscapes.

A song like “Solitude Is Bliss” is poppy and psychedelic, as if born in the “Magical Mystery Tour” era. But the jaunty and buoyant “Elephant,” off last year’s dandy “Lonerism” album, sounds more steeped in dance or eletronica. And “Half Full Glass of Wine,” which got one of the biggest ovations of the set, is a gust of grimy and hazy acid-washed rock blues.

All the distortion and feedback and other guitar and keyboard effects tended to wash out many of Parker’s lyrics, but the grooves and moods the band mustered kept most of the crowd in thrall.

Also on the set list: “Music to Walk Home By,” “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind” and “Apocalypse Dreams,” a trippy pop song filled with lots of guitar and keyboard fanfare that brought the set to a blissful end.

The other headliner was the National, a band from New York via Cincinnati. During a set that lasted about 10 minutes shy of two hours, the five-piece, embellished by a two horn players, delivered to a crowd of about 3,200 people straightforward versions of songs drawn from a catalog that comprises six full-length albums and goes back 12 years.

That music showcases the lyrics of lead singer Matt Berninger, which typically plumb the ruins of a broken heart. It’s all rendered in various shades of gloom and darkness, cast in dark hues that range from midnight black to gun-metal gray.

The National opened with two from “Trouble Will Find Me,” its latest album: “I Should Live in Salt” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap,” which bears a typical Berninger line: “I have only two emotions/careful fear and dead devotion.” After that, “Sorrow,” a lament in which Berninger repeats, like a prayer, “I don’t wanna get over you.”

The set list comprised nearly two dozen songs and included the feral and hard-driving “Abel,” from the breakthrough “Alligator” album. As he did in a few other songs, like “Squalor Victoria,” Berninger let loose with some primal screams during that one, a change from his typically dolorous baritone.

The band’s sound can grow monotonous over the course of two hours, but horns added a different accent to songs like “About Today,” “I Need My Girl” and “Fake Empire.” During that one, several couples danced close.

They closed with a four-song encore that started with “Humiliation,” which included a nice light show, “Mr. November,” which is infused with the kind of guitar jangle R.E.M. used to be famous for, “Terrible Love” and the sad but redemptive “Vanderylye Crybaby Geeks.” For that one, the band assembled at the front of the stage and performed semi-unplugged. The crowd joined in on the chorus and swayed along with the band, bringing the show to a close — a parting that was more sweetness than sorrow.

Setlists

Tame Impala (from the soundboard): Endors Toi; Solitude is Bliss; Music to Walk Home By; Desire Be Desire Go; Half Full Glass of Wine; Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind; Elephant; Be Above It; Feels Like We Only Go Backwards; Oscilly; Mind Mischief; Apocalypse Dreams.

The National: I Should Live in Salt; Don’t Swallow the Cap; Sorrow; Bloodbuzz Ohio; Demons; Sea of Love; Heavenfaced; Afraid of Everyone; Conversation 16; Squalor Victoria; I Need My Girl; This Is The Last Time; Abel; Slow Show; Pink Rabbits; Graceless; About Today; Fake Empire. Encore: Humiliation; Mr. November; Terrible Love; Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/phinnagain. Read more from him at our music blog, Back to Rockville, at KansasCity.com.

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