It’s perhaps no surprise that London is a special city for Savages. Way back when the band first took shape, it was the East End that hosted them, looking silently on as Savages performed from the confines of an actual wooden fortress (!!!) they’d constructed specially for early shows. From the triumphant live embers in the wake of debut album ‘Silence Yourself,’ to the zest-for-living filled successor ‘Adore Life’ (and the tearing down of barriers that came with it) it’s continually in the capital where Savages hit prime form. This year has seen Jehnny Beth particularly entering a whole new league, transforming from an admittedly closed-off presence, into an unstoppable force balanced on the teetering line between arms-open connection and ferocity
Earlier this year, at a sold-out Roundhouse, the frontwoman quite literally found her feet; balanced on the shoulders of an unwitting punter in the middle of the cavernous venue, to be exact. And tonight, she and her bandmates find themselves commanding one of London’s most iconic stages of all. Their “last show for a while,” Brixton is the gleaming final jewel in a year of fearsomely visceral Savages shows.
After paying tribute to the late Leonard Cohen – blasting ‘Recitation’ across a darkened room – Savages announce their arrival with the brutally unforgiving ‘I Am Here’ from their debut, before pogoing headfirst into racing freight train ‘Sad Person’. Tonight, there are no cages, or other such on-stage bells and whistles. Lit by stark white spotlights, smoke curling around the black-clad band, it’s purposefully stark, and devoid of gimmicks. Playing one of the city’s largest rooms like it’s a divey, beer-scented boozer is a bold decision that pays off.
In truth, Savages don’t need any gilded extras, or snazzy embellishments. The waltzing, plunking ‘Slowing Down the World’ sees them goading the crowds with their harsh melodic interplay; on the verge of spiralling into destruction, but not quite toppling. ‘When In Love’ shows the band at their most playful, drummer Faye Milton providing some euphoric (and well-timed) fist-pumps as Jehnny Beth snarls the choice line “next time I’m in the neighbourhood, I might be knocking at your door”. Meanwhile, in the breakneck thrash-rock of ‘T.I.W.Y.G,’ Beth delivers menacing jibes comparing former flings to dried-out raisins – without even cracking a smirk.
Soon after the lights plunge to darkness, Savages return with an unpredictable encore; giving a nod to Marianne Faithfull (who is playing newly-reopened Paris venue Le Bataclan tonight) with a bracing take on ‘Why’d Ya Do It’. After ‘Mechanics,’ and the soaring rock-opera vibes of ‘Adore,’ Savages invite support act Good Sad Happy Bad (fka. Micachu and the Shapes) back to the stage for their closer. The bullshit-slaying ‘Fuckers’ feels extra cathartic given the shit-show context of 2016. Pairing their concrete-hard walls of sonic noise with a particular kind of warmth over the course of this year, Savages hit just as hard, but some of their edges have softened, too. It has become their victorious calling-card.
Photos: Caroline Quinn
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