Live Review: Ty Segall @ Princess Theatre

30 January 2023 | 4:49 pm | Steve Bell

Here’s hoping it’s not nine years between drinks next time…

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With the ornate interior of the Princess Theatre shrouded in darkness, local outfit Slow Rip kicks off with just a white spotlight on the floor of the stage behind them, casting the black-clad band in perfect silhouette as they begin their pummelling post-punk assault. Since their last outing as a four-piece, they’ve expanded the line-up with a synth player, and it works a treat, adding drone and pulse to the dark, driving rock’n’roll that they’re already becoming renowned for. They make a fearsome racket, but there are plenty of pop-hooks lurking amongst the goth-tinged cacophony, and they fully capture the growing crowd’s attention with tunes like Traffic Patrol, Sun and Internet in a fittingly epic start to proceedings.

Charismatic Melbourne quartet Parsnip are far less in-your-face than the openers but no less intriguing, their charmingly ramshackle brand of upbeat indie-rock keeping feet tapping from the get-go. The four members all contribute vocals, adding both depth and diversity to their sunny aesthetic, and they collectively seem to be having a ball that proves contagious. There are twists and turns aplenty, their sound veering from folky jangle to surfy twang and into psych-pop territory, at times, as they explore a succession of strange-but-fascinating arrangements, the slightly-more-abrasive Crossword Cheater a highlight of their fun, catchy set. 

Californian garage-psych chameleon, Ty Segall, hasn’t been to Australia since 2014, so there’s a tangible sense of anticipation amidst the packed house, yet few seem to have been expecting the singer to kick things off on his lonesome with just an acoustic guitar. He enters the fray on stage left and runs through a breezy version of Squealer to a resoundingly positive (albeit slightly bemused) reception before being joined by his acoustic-toting sideman Emmett Kelly, who adds heft to Saturday Pt 1, and the weird acoustic-prog of Californian Hills.

Suddenly the scene bursts into action as the rest of the Freedom Band emerge amongst a dervish of roadies preparing the stage for the full-band assault, and there’s a sudden wall of noise as they unleash into the buzzsaw dirge of older track Wave Goodbye, the thick molten riffs getting heads up the front, banging in unison before dissolving into a lengthy wig-out. It’s immediately apparent that this is a far different beast to the Ty Segall of last visit, having evolved away from his garage-pop foundations into a more cosmic, jamming behemoth. He’s always given the vibe of not caring the slightest about anything but what he likes, so the shift works seamlessly. His bandmates are fully invested in the transformation and follow their leader into the fray with gleeful abandon.

The thick groove of Whisper almost veers into stoner rock terrain, Manipulator bursts into a trippy psych rant and the slightly more restrained Goodbye Bread still manages to muster the night’s first crowd surfers. Segall has issued six studio albums since his last foray Down Under, and we’re treated to tracks from all of them, as well as an earth-shattering cover of Hot Chocolate’s Everyone’s A Winner, which sets the room alight with its sleazy funk grandiosity. Rain brings an almost medieval ambience before they conclude a powerhouse set with the laidback swing of Take Care To Comb Your Hair, a thunderous run through Candy Sam and the powerful Sleeper which builds into a massive crescendo of noise, flashing lights and bodies hurling above the crowd.

Segall has barely spoken a word between songs all night, but as he returns for the encore (once more gripping his acoustic guitar), he pauses to ask the crowd to chant out his wife’s name, that noisy aside quickly turning into a huge communal singalong as their hero bursts into a solo rendition of My Lady’s On Fire before the rest of the band also return for a cacophonous rendition of Warm Hands (Freedom Returned) which ends in a perfect squall of swirling guitars and howled mass appreciation. Here’s hoping it’s not nine years between drinks next time…

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