Live Review: Ty Segall & the Freedom Band at Kentish Town Forum - 09.06.18
Ty Segall & the Freedom Band is the latest incarnation of the Californian’s ever-evolving garage rock wrecking crew, featuring usual suspects Mikal Cronin on bass and sax, Charles Moothart on drums, Emmet Kelly on guitar, joined by Ben Boye on piano. Having seen them steamroll through Barcelona at Primavera Sound the weekend before their arrival at The Forum in London’s Kentish Town, I opted on this occasion to take a seat in the balcony, in order to fully immerse myself in the Freedom Band experience.
See, the volume and the sheer energy and fun of the songs they play is more than enough to make their concerts a non-stop joyride, but this is all elevated when you can watch the 5 men onstage and the musicianship they each bring. Ty Segall & the Freedom Band are the least pretentious rock band going; there’s no backdrop or screens, their bodies move and contort with the music with no thoughts about how “uncool” they might look, there’s minimal talking between songs, and when they have to switch instruments there’s absolutely nobody on hand to help them with the changeover - they merely lean their guitars up against the amps and get the next one out of its case. Most interestingly, they line up along the stage with their “leader” Ty Segall at the viewers’ far right, essentially creating a circle with the audience filling in the gap. The ultimate feeling is of standing in the garage with a bunch of friends as they jam – and it’s all the more compelling because of it.
Of course, these are absolutely virtuosic performers, of which we are left in no doubt when they roll us through the first of many stomach-turning transitions from the opening ‘Wave Goodbye’ into the night’s first singalong ‘Fanny Dog’. This thrilled the crowd so much that an almost-full pint of beer came arcing out of the crowd to hit Ben Boye’s keyboards – not that it halted or distracted them for a split second.
The setlist flitted all over Segall’s catalogue, in the first “segment” reaching back to 2010’s Melted with ‘Finger’, before turning a trio of tracks from 2016’s analogue experimentation Emotional Mugger into blistering thunderbolts of rock prowess. Despite the songs being from different albums, the band has sewn them together into a maelstrom of unstoppable force, and when the first real break came after a breathless ‘Candy Sam’, it was unsurprising to see them all reaching for nearby towels to mop themselves down.
Songs from this year’s Freedom’s Goblin got the biggest response, most notably their cover of Hot Chocolate’s ‘Every 1’s A Winner’ (about which I was sceptical on record) was a riotous sing-and-sway along. This was followed up by ‘Despoiler Of Cadaver’, in which the band showed they can write just as potent an original garage-rock-dance-song. The later pairing of ‘My Lady’s On Fire’ and ‘Alta’ similarly set the crowd writhing as one entranced mass. On the former, Mikal Cronin switched his bass for sax and led a communal moment of euphoria through the red hot devotional, while the latter showcased that it is truly the most epic song in Segall’s discography to date, its plundering riffs and death-or-glory chorus quaking the very foundations of the aged venue.
Each member of the band played an absolutely crucial part in keeping this well-oiled tanker running throughout, but there were some moments that should be highlighted. The trio of older songs towards the end of the set, featuring ‘Spiders’, ‘Cherry Red’ and ‘Love Fuzz’ came frothing out of the amplifiers with reinvigorated glory, particularly when Ben Boye had the opportunity to solo on keys, his hands moving like a centipede on speed. ‘Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)’, the 10-minute epic from 2017’s Ty Segall is the centrepiece of the night, with the extended jazz breakdown having now been morphed into a long and psychedelic rock workout, with each guitar pushing against the restraints of sense, but remaining lashed together by the impeccable Moothart on drums in the centre. Throughout the night it was always incredible to see Cronin and Kelly thoroughly rocking out in the most vicious moments, but never missing their cue to step up and deliver a heavenly backing vocal when they would pop up.
We were treated to two more extended cuts to finish the night, either side of the encore break. Finishing with ‘And, Goodnight’, the extended re-envisioning of Segall’s ‘Sleeper’, extended to theatrical and swashbuckling lengths. The band hasn’t been playing many encores on this current tour, but there was no way this London crowd was going to let them get away without one. Duly they obliged, delivering a turbine-force version of ‘She’, Segall yowling for all his worth, just as potent as when he’d started 100 sweaty minutes earlier, his band backing him to the nines, never missing a single beat.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 11th June 2018.