This Savages article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse. Header image by Chris Cooper.
Nondescript Tufnell Park is a strange place to stage your first headline London gig in two years. But that’s what Savages do, admitting that “it’s been too long”, although they’ve done collaborations in the meantime. The tube station is shut, so it’s the bus or a walk from Kentish Town for most punters. But by the end of this performance, they agree that it was worth the trek.
“I don’t know how many times it is, but I never tire of seeing them,” says a youngish bloke at the front, clutching the set list at the end of the night. An older bloke says to his mate, “Of all the bands that win you over on the basis of live performance, they’re the best I’ve seen in years.”
Savages play 15 songs, with no encore, climaxing slowly and purposefully. They nail it. The stage is draped entirely in black. Only metallic and white parts of the drum kit, on a high platform, break the monochrome set. A taped intro starts, churning, then Savages kick into the first track, ‘I Need Something New’, from next year’s second album, ‘Adore Life’. Another new one follows, ‘The Answer’, and Gemma Thompson’s guitar cries out. After a delicious false ending, the song resumes loudly and stops dead.
‘Shut Up’ from 2013’s ‘Silence Yourself’ breaks from a swirling guitar sound like The Cure in 1980 into a staccato attack, and back again. Jehnny Beth‘s vocal soars through the reverb. More spacey guitar marks out new track ‘Evil’, and Fay Milton’s drumming is more creative than just percussive. “We’re going to play some more new songs,” Jehnny Beth says, clapping, before ‘Slowing Down The World’, ‘Surrender’ and ‘Sad Person’. The new songs deploy booming bass from Ayse Hassan to feel spooky and dark. Pure white light is used, and the whole band is dressed in black. Gemma Thompson makes her guitar sound like angry insects. A civilised mosh starts, with the mixed-age crowd showing appreciation and respect at the same time.
The moshers glide through the gears for a sequence of tracks from ‘Silence Yourself’. Jehnny Beth is by now really into it, as ‘City’s Full’ breaks into mental drumming and buzzing guitars after a brief spoken-word pause. She urges the crowd to “come closer” and the pure punk of ‘No Face’ moves the experience up yet another notch, with a pogo at the front. It gets even more intense for ‘Hit Me’ as the guitar screeches amid percussive vocals and Jehnny Beth steps onto the crowd, held aloft by a dozen arms. “I think you all know this one,” she says, as ‘Husbands’ snaps like whiplash, creating a surge. The crowd sings along to the sumptuously melodic guitar riff of ‘She Will’. The relentless repetition of the song’s title sparks more old-fashioned pogoing.
“This is another new song,” Jehnny Beth says, introducing ‘T.I.W.Y.G.’ – short for the refrain, “This is what you get when you mess with love” – in which Savages play faster and better than on any song so far. It’s an incendiary wall of noise. ‘Adore’ shows more signs of rapid progress in Savages musical evolution. It starts slowly and atmospherically, before twice taking off into soaring stadium rock, interspersed with quieter moments when lovely guitar accents wail against drums and bass that sound like the Stooges. It breaks, then climaxes with an anthemic key change and Jehnny Beth’s best singing of the night, as she punches the air defiantly and looks straight into the crowd’s eyes.
The night ends with last year’s single ‘Fuckers’, a fan favourite. “Don’t let the fuckers get you down,” is the chorus, and the Dome in nondescript Tufnell Park sings its agreement. Most people leave wanting to see Savages again, as soon as they can. They launch their album at 8am on 26th January at the 100 Club, London, and are on tour 18 February-17 March in the UK and mainland Europe, ending at the Roundhouse, Camden. They then head to North America until late April.