Savages have been the talk of the indie / hard rock world since their debut album, Silence Yourself, put them on the map in all kinds of ways. But from all the footage I've seen of their live shows, this is a band that has to be seen in person to really understand them. No amount of speakers or headphones could possibly convey the atmosphere that Savages bring to a room. And if there's one thing they've got down, it's atmosphere.
On Wednesday, Savages headlined a show at New York City's Terminal 5, and they brought it hard. Clad entirely in black, and foregoing the normal explosion of colored lights in favor of only white ones, Savages took everyone in the room by force and made damn sure they didn't lose their attention for a second. Starting the night with the appropriately titled, "I Am Here," guitarist Gemma Thompson's screeching combination of feedback and distortion set the mood right off the bat. The bass and drums launched into a pounding, forceful combination that put a driving force behind the spaciousness of the guitar, and suddenly there was a feeling something like rage bubbling just beneath a calm.
Frontwoman Jehnny Beth has a unique control of the stage. Despite being definitely under 5' 6'' she brings a certain amount of intimidation and force that many people twice her size could never hope to have. Her direct eye contact was sometimes off-putting, but in a good way. She brought the focus of the entire room on her, while Thompson rarely looked up, instead choosing to keep her focus on her wailing guitar shrieks, and bassist Ayse Hassan rarely, if ever at all, opened her eyes. Drummer Fay Milton was certainly more animated, fluctuating between subdued beats and just pounding the living hell out of her kit. The band functions as parts of a whole in both music and showmanship.
Jehnny Beth spent a good amount of time with the audience as well, asking us "Why am I onstage?" and calling us "irresistible," at which point she got down into the crowd and stood on top of the fence between the crowd and the stage, supported by audience members and bouncers. This happened several times throughout the show, and she spent a great deal of time up there crouching and leaning over and into us, at one point getting her face only several inches from mine, which was honestly a little scary. She's scary and I'm not ashamed to admit it. She also did some crowdsurfing while singing, which isn't exactly easy to do.
Savages played all of Silence Yourself, with the exception of the ambient noise track "Dead Nature." They also treated the audience to a new song, also appropriately titled "I Need Something New," and opening act Duke Garwood joined the band on saxophone while Beth played the piano for "Marshal Dear." The group also chose to play Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream," which they gave the full Savages treatment of slightly-bridled rage. They ended the night with their new song, "Fuckers," which is as close to a positive-themed song as Savages could do. "Don't let the fuckers get you down," she repeated over and over, and when Savages speak, everyone pays attention.
Terminal 5 was their last show in America for a while, but you can be damn sure I'll be waiting for when they get back. You should too.
Savages at Terminal 5 10.16.2013 Setlist:
I Am Here
I Need Something New
Waiting for a Sign
Marshal Dear (with Duke Garwood)
Dream Baby Dream (Suicide cover)