By Casey Cooper-Fiske
Anglo-French band prove they’re ready for bigger venues and larger crowds.
Savages’ career began, like many others, with small scale gigging around local venues in East London, bringing a similar aesthetic to Placebo with perhaps a little more charm. When they first arrived on the scene in 2011, they were branded pretentious by many. This didn’t seem to phase the band however, naming their debut album Silence Yourself and slapping an essay of a mission statement on the cover. The accusations of pretention were not helped by the signs put out by the band telling the live audience not to record anything, as they felt it prevented the audience from “Totally immersing themselves” (Probably true).
With the release of the band’s second album, Adore Life, Savages appeared to attempt just that with drummer Fay Milton exclaiming to DIY Magazine “We did humour”! Lead singer Jehnny Beth has previously shown an unwillingness to become involved with this entertaining take.
Tonight at Brixton Academy however, at their biggest live show to date, the whole band appear to be in ‘Adore’ mode, giving a powerful and moving performance from start to finish.
“I am here, no more fear”, Jehnny Beth, a.k.a. Camille Berthomier, boldly proclaims as the band announce their arrival on stage with the fitting ‘I Am Here’. The band’s rhythm section acts as torch in the dark, guiding Jehnny Beth’s vocals through the gloomy clouds of feedback from Gemma Thompson’s guitar mastery. As the song reaches its crescendo, Thompson’s guitar turns to thunder aliening with t
he line “Are you coming for the ride”? We certainly are in for this ride.
As the band plow on through ‘Sad Person’ and ‘City’s Full’, it’s clear the audience have decided to take up Beth’s earlier proposal. They are all in. During the first three tracks, Beth casts her androgynous spell on the crowd as she glides around the stage and punches the air with anger.
The energy however seems to whimper a little as the band introduce a calmer track, suitably named ‘Slowing down the World’. Not a bad song by any means, however they have a lot more potent songs that were omitted from the evening. Songs with a similar tempo such as ‘Marshal Dear’ and ‘Waiting for a Sign’, missing from tonight’s setlist, would, most likely, be received with more enthusiasm from the audience.
Saying that all the slower material brought the evening down would be criminal, tough the band brings a more solemn tone as the end draws near. Double header of ‘Adore Life’ songs ‘Mechanics’ and ‘Adore’ stuns the audience into silence as Beth’s voice echoes around the Academy. ‘Adore’ is a particularly special moment, bringing tears from some members of the audience as Beth asks “Is it human to adore life”?
Another special moment came as the rhythm section departed the stage, leaving only guitarist Thompson and frontwoman Beth to cover Marianne Faithful’s ‘Why’d Ya Do It?’. The two share a tense energy on stage, staring each other out, one seemingly tries to outdo the other. The two share a unique chemistry when left alone, one that seems part driven by equal amounts of aggression and adoration.
Fan favourites such as ‘The Answer’, ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Husbands’ are received raucously by the crowd. With the later showing the faultless bass playing of Ayse Hassan in all its glory, providing a nervy undertone as she skitters from fret to fret.
Breaking the barrier between band and crowd, Beth walks right into it on a path of hands provided by adoring fans. The climax comes during ‘No Face’ as she “have a message for all the young men in the room”,then proceeding to approach the young men of the audience, personally looming down on them with full on eye contact and an instructional point of a finger. Her message of equality and respect is delivered with a tone of voice which is part annoyed and part hopeful.
The thought provoking words of Jehnny Beth describes the tone of the night. Fused with the focused choreographed playing of bandmates, Hassan, Thompson and Milton, make for both an intense and emotional evening at the Academy. The only downfall being the setlist’s favour of accessible tracks, setting aside some of the band’s more interesting tunes. The evening is well rounded off as Savages is joined by support group Good, Sad, Happy, Bad for standalone single ‘Fuckers’, with its bouncy riff sending the more than satisfied crowd home filled with adrenaline.