Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ty Segall's Trip

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
Mid-set, he brought Corey Hanson onstage to sing a few songs with him. Hanson had played before Segall, and several of his quiet, coffeehouse-vibe songs weren't charitably received by some quarters of the crowd itching for Segall. (Hanson swung with it very well; on the din coming from the uninterested patrons in the back of the club he remarked that they must be people seeing each other for the first time in 20 years. "It's fantastic," he said wryly. "I can't compete with that.") Segall took some measure of revenge by first admonishing the crowd for not listening to Hanson's set, then by bringing him onstage where the two of them played a whacked-out medley of Spinal Tap's "Gimme Some Money" and the Beatles' "Yer Blues" and "Why Don't We Do It On The Road," egging each other on, guffawing, breaking several strings between them. When the applause died down, Segall sang the first line of Paul McCartney's "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" and then abruptly stopped; I was disappointed, I really wanted to see and hear what the two could've down with that. The Segall-Hanson duo had a knockabout Everly Brothers quality to them; it's a pity they didn't tackle, say, "Let It Be Me," or "Like Strangers." The Segall-Hanson blend of irony and sincerity would've taken those songs apart. Hopefully there's an acoustic 7" in the pipeline.

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.

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