Seeing the folding chairs filling the floor of the 9:30 Club, I knew garage-rocker, Ty Segall’s gig was going to be different. The current tour is all acoustic, a significant change for this energetic artist who usually commands aggressive mosh pits and encourages crowd-surfing at his sold-out shows. Segall caught my attention in 2014 with his seventh studio effort, Manipulator. By then, he had amassed quite a catalogue, releasing a solo album every year since 2008 and along with multiple side projects. Segall’s music has a definite nostalgic feel. It is oft described as lo-fi, indie, psych-influenced rock. Listen carefully, and hear the significant influences of David Bowie, Black Sabbath and Marc Bolan.
The 9:30 Club’s house music created the mood, drawing on 70’s selections from metal to punk. This warmup choices may have something to do with Segall’s recent covers album Fudge Sandwich that includes his takes on songs by Neil Young, Funkadelic and John Lennon.
Segall arrival on stage was greeted by a respectable audience of loyal fans. Opening his beat up guitar case, he noticed the lack of a strap, running immediately off stage to retrieve it. He kicked off things quickly with “Orange Color Queen” from his second self-titled album. This song’s slow expressive start and transition into surging guitar complimented by falsetto vocals, providing an atmosphere of psychedelia, was the perfect start.
The next few songs drew from Segall’s various albums going back to 2011’s Goodby Bread. Then, unexpectedly, he threw in Harry Nilsson’s “Me and My Arrow.” His trip down memory lane continued with a cover of Gong’s 1970, “Little Miss Titty.” Segall delivered the song in a menacing voice that would make Daevid Allen proud.
Moving back to his own corpus, Segall followed with “Queen Lullaby” from his 2013 effort, Sleeper, which translated nicely into the acoustic format. Starting very slow and gently, the song it revs up half way through. Segall’s hands was moving intoxicatingly fast. The crowd went wild with appreciation for his masterful strumming.
“Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)”. Segall began a cappella, brought down the house:
As I was waiting on the grassy field
My fingers walking all alone
To use my muscles felt impossible
I need replacements for my bones
He said he wanted to talk to me
“Come here, let me take you home”
My hands, they feel warm
My car can run
As Segall sang, his voice became sinister. The song turned into a 10-minute, intense multi-sectional composition that ricocheted between laidback folk with aggressive strumming intervals to an experimental guitar jam. A snippet of The Who’s “It’s A Boy” brought the tune’s train-like structure to an incredible conclusion.
Ty Segall, the unpredictable, sometimes hard-rocker, is such a chameleon that it’s hard to guess what his next move. Glam, hard rock, elements of punk, garage and psychedelic; the influences are there. Segall’s solo acoustic tour not only highlighted his guitar skills, but his ability to translate a varied musical inventory into a dynamite performance. It was a masterful exploration of past inspirations combined freely experimented on. After a decade of artistic surprises, this writer can wait to see what Segall comes up with next.