When an artist puts out a live record at their peak, it has the feel of a greatest hits package, or Prince’s 1990s output – a “let’s fulfill our label contract and move on” release. Ever since Metallica released its Live Shit: Binge and Purge box set at a time when I would have purchased a cookbook written by Jason Newsted, the Victory Lap Live Record has failed to capture my imagination.
Ty Segall’s Live in San Francisco is not an exception to this rule. But if you like this Bay Area native’s approach to garage rock – raw, with deeply embedded hooks that smile through the noise – you will probably really enjoy its one- or two-spin lifespan. Living in the afterglow of 2014’s excellent Manipulator, Segall’s fifth quality album in three years, it has the satisfying feel of a man hitting the beer tent hard after a marathon. Capturing the Ty Segall Band in fine form over two nights at the midsize venue the Rickshaw Stop, Live in San Francisco has the same ragged-but-right appeal as Segall’s only effort attributed to said group – 2012’s Slaughterhouse, which lives in the sweet spot between Stooges brawls and British Invasion harmonies. It’s loud but never chaotic, intense but never dangerous.
The proceedings begin with Segall introducing the song “Wave Goodbye” in a way that perfectly encapsulates his appeal. Knowing that the experience to come is something of a screaming onslaught, he opts for the opposite of “Are you ready to rock?” “Now say BYE BYE!” he instructs, letting the ensuing thunder mingle with that childlike energy, making for an experience that is probably best described as just fun.
The lineup is the same as Slaughterhouse – drummer Emily Rose Epstein, guitarist Charles Moothart, and bassist Mikal Cronin (moonlighting from his own solo career) – and that record takes up half the playlist. But the side-project-ish nature of the group makes these tracks probably seem fresher to the group than a more seasoned ensemble; there’s an edge to “I Bought My Eyes”, for example, that might not be there if they’d been playing it together since Obama got re-elected. When the two-part harmonies are unleashed in the chorus, the heightened tension becomes clear. This is a snarlier animal than the studio version.
Live in San Francisco has another thing going for it – its approach to audience noise. In that there really isn’t one. By letting us hear every time an audience member feels the need to yell “Fuck yeah!” in between songs, we get a sense of how intimate the room is, and can envision how this performance must’ve had the walls rattling. It’s all part of the Ty Segall aesthetic for sure, taking material that’s totally polished in reality, and staining it with oil and sweat until it doesn’t sound rehearsed. That guy who yells things at concerts because he’s caught up in the moment? Ty’s that guy too.