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A Cult Hero Returns

May 26th, 2010

Roky Erickson – Webster Hall – May 25, 2010

Roky Erickson - Webster Hall - May 25, 2010
Troubled rock legend Roky Erickson brought his wild catalog to Webster Hall last night, replete with moments both brash and reflective. Being backed by Okkervil River was the perfect complement, as Will Sheff and his bandmates blended country smoothness and hazy, loose blues to match Erickson’s erratic rock sound. Fresh off releasing an album together, True Love Cast Out All Evil, the collective was a wonderful marriage of sound and personality. Sheff took the lead through the early parts of the performance, shouting out the set list and interacting with the crowd. Erickson’s reticence and nervousness gave the feel of an old mass, with his back to the audience, only turning to his rock and roll worshipers to speak in his strange tongue.

But somewhere between the mid-set Little Richard cover and “I Walked with a Zombie” at the end, a flip was switched in Erickson, and he came to life with personality and bravado. As he and the band dove deep into songs from his 13th Floor Elevator days—like “Goodbye Sweet Dreams” and “Reverberation (Doubt)”—his lucidity grew and he embraced the fans before him. Instead of looking at Sheff for which chords to play, Erickson furiously ripped through them as his signature voice rang out as loud as his 62 years would allow. He even engaged the crowd, cracking jokes about his oldest songs now being on CDs. As if this middle-of-the-show awakening didn’t do enough to envelop the audience in joy, Erickson finished his encore with “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” a song that even casual rock fans know, and turned Webster Hall into a psychedelic-rock dance party deserving of Roky Erickson. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com