Not too far into her set at the Plush Room in San Francisco Tuesday, Katey Sagal told the audience, “My secret passion is for songwriting … but my life kind of took a different turn.”
That offhand, unspecific remark was the only reference to the fact that she’s probably best known as Peg Bundy from TV’s “Married With Children.” In real life, she’s nothing like the character. And judging from her spirited singing performance, it looks like she’s taking a solid turn back on a journey she was meant to follow, which she began as a child. As a youngster, she said, “I kept thinking I was Laura Nyro” — even though her family told her she wasn’t.
But that’s not a half-bad comparison. Her melodic original tunes have a deep, 1960s-’70s sensibility thoroughly appreciated by the folks who came to see her, wondering just what she might do.
She has a solid background as a vocalist, having performed backup for the likes of Bette Midler, Etta James and Bob Dylan, whose songs she covered: “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry” and “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”
Backed by guitarists Bob Thiele and Billy Watts, drummer Debra Dobkin, keyboardist Dillon O’Brian and vocalist Billy Valentine, she sang a moving version of Patty Griffin’s “Let Him Fly.” Yet her original songs, co-written by Theile, were the show’s standouts. Themes focused on disillusionment (“Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid”), patience (“Can’t Hurry the Harvest”) and facing change in tunes that ranged from somewhat bouncy pop to ballads to belt-out blues (“September Rain”) at which she excelled.
She sang songs about her family and growing up — “Daddy’s Girl” and the infectious “I Wish I Was a Kid,” co-written by Thiele and her husband — and followed with Charlie Chaplin’s always poignant “Smile.” For the last tune, she got her enthusiastic listeners feeling the groove again with Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everybody is a Star.”
Sagal, whose most recent album is called “Room,” certainly has the appeal of a singing star; her act is worth checking out.
Where: Empire Plush Room, York Hotel, 940 Sutter St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today through Saturday
Contact: (866) 468-3399 or www.theempireplushroom.com