Ty Segall is one of the few musicians who in the middle of a set can mutter, "Here's another new song" and be greeted with an enthusiastic and wholly sincere "Please!!" from someone in the crowd. Segall played a moody, stirring acoustic show at a sold-out Empty Bottle in Chicago last night, and his fans were rapt and grateful. Shaggy-haired and shy, wearing a New York Dolls t shirt and grabbing from among several beat-up guitars from the stage as if he were in his bedroom, Segall rode his intense songs from the bottom to the top of his amazing range. This was my first time seeing Segall: I love his voice on record, where it moves between lull and screech, but playing live and with no accompaniment but his own acoustic, his range really impresses: he can live in the low end, sexy and foreboding, and then soar to the top end where what was earthy becomes atmospheric—and this trip comes in one or two lines. The hypnotic "Crazy" from 2013's Sleeper (one of Segall's forty-plus releases) was both direct and airy, a psychedelic trick that few pull off with the confidence and nerve that Segall does, inspiring dreamy dancing from his female fans and guarded but worshipful countenances on his male fans. Among the highlights was a cover of Syd Barret's "Bob Dylan Blues," a gem from 1970 that surfaced in 2001; Segall sang the ode-parody with affection and a smile. His playing moved between evocative finger-picking and manic strumming—he busted a ton of strings—and he was able to maintain command while hiding inside the most tender, raw songs. That's what a great artist can do. Ty Segall's the real thing.
|Segall and Corey Hanson|
For his last song Segall asked for requests. He couldn't hear a thing in the din, and so randomly pointed to a guy who, to my delight, yelled "Thank God For Sinners." (I'd hollered it too, but wasn't heard.) Segall asked the guy's name, and then said, "Thanks to John, the guy with the beard!" and then launched into a scathing, inspired, uplifting version of this great song, one I've marveled at before for its exhausted Saturday night/Sunday morning redemptive spirit. When it was over, Segall said "thanks" quietly, that it was an honor to be heard, and vanished—a modest guy with a hundred records of great music behind him. This is a cool time.