The London-based, all-female industrial/post-punk quartet Savages must be touring with Spinal Tap’s amps, because they seem to play at one level: 11.
On the first night of two sold-out shows at The El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, Savages came out firing on all cylinders and grabbed the audience by the throat and did not let go for the duration of its set.
While the band’s debut album Silence Yourself is solid and has received critical praise, the ladies shine most with their hard-hitting, tight, powerful live performances. There’s very little crowd interaction and frivolities during their show; just intense, fierce music blasting your ears and filling every inch of your body with bone-chilling bass as it rattles the rafters—from start to finish.
With all band members dressed in black – save the fuchsia pumps worn by lead singer Jehnny Beth – they fittingly play amid a dark, moody atmosphere that matches their sound and image. They are indeed a cohesive group, but entertaining and riveting individually with each member seemingly in her own little world: Beth sneering and glaring at the crowd as she tells stories through song; bassist Ayse Hassan rocking back and forth with her eyes closed and focused on her instrument; guitarist Gemma Thompson tucked to the side hammering away on the strings creating a noise all to its own; and drummer Fay Milton, who may be one of the best in the business, setting the tone for the rest of the group with penetrating beats.
By their performance, it’s clear that the Savages take their music seriously, as well as the experience for the fans. Posted outside the theatre was a sign reading in all caps:
Our goal is to discover better ways of living and experiencing music.
We believe that the use of phones to film and take pictures during a gig prevents all of us from totally immersing ourselves.
Let’s make this evening special.
Silence your phones.
Needless to say, with the number of videos posted on YouTube from the show, these wise words and request fell upon deaf ears with many of the fans in attendance. In today’s digital world, it seems like a fruitless attempt, but one that should be enforced.
The night concluded with a song that truly illustrates the band’s talents, and demonstrates their ability to improvise and really let loose instrumentally. The final number, “Don’t Let The Fuckers Get You Down,” brought opener Johnny Hostile back on stage for an extended jam and a fury of noise.
With only one album under their belt, it’s still uncertain how they will develop as a band and progress as musicians. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll add a slower tune to their repertoire and turn the amps down to a ten.
Hostile, co-founder of Pop Noire Records with Savages’ Beth, opened the night with a solo performance of dark, imaginative music. Accompanied by a drum machine and his guitar, the slick-looking Hostile creates a raw, edgy mix of synth that is every bit trippy as it is rock.
Both Beth and Thompson from Savages joined Hostile to close out his set, adding an extra boost of energy and vocals to fire up the crowd. But given the relationship between Hostile and Savages, and the fact that two of its members joined him on stage for the last number, it would have been pretty sweet to see a show that seamlessly flowed from one performance to the next, with the other members of Savages taking the stage one by one as Hostile ended his set.
I Am Here
Waiting for a Sign
Flying to Berlin
Don’t Let the Fuckers Get You Down