Savages Crescent Ballroom October 1, 2013
If you name your band Savages, you'd better be damn ferocious and feral. I suppose you could go the irony route and be real timid and wimpy, akin to when a giant, burly ax murderer's name turns out to be Tiny. Me, I prefer the former. Thankfully living up to their moniker, London's post-punk band Savages hit Phoenix on Tuesday night, giving the Crescent Ballroom audience a raucous treat.
I had first heard about the band months back, and the buzz seemed to be emphasized for many by the fact that each member of the four-piece is a woman. Regardless of what is happening in the band's nether regions, fact of the matter is, they fucking brought it -- wrapping together all the darkness, drive, and dance-y elements of first-wave post-punk -- delivering a blistering set that was just long enough to keep everyone locked in, chopping it off before wearing out their welcome and not coming back out for a trip to encore city.
Their first full length, Silence Yourself, was released in May on Matador Records, as well as on singer Jehnny Beth's own label, Pop Noire. The recording may be new, and the band played its first gig in only January 2012, but that newness is nothing you'd ever notice. These girls attack each song with fever, lifting them from the already aggressive recording that has them collecting drooling fans and elevating them in this live show, at times, way past my expectation.
A deep and pounding drum beat was the force behind opening song "I Am Here," building from arty and minimal to pulsing and energetic -- something they do well and often. It's a ruthless union, with Beth's vocal range as comfortable being tough and guttural as it hits some near-piercing levels. That's combined with Gemma Thompson's relentless and edgy guitar, Ayse Hassan's vigorous bass-playing, and Fay Milton's booming drums, which didn't let up for a second.
Clad in black down to a pair of red pumps, Jehnny Beth prowled the stage like a cat as they moved into "City's Full," her pace matching that tension the song explores about the fractures in relationships that keep you in a stir.
Beth became a bit of a playful antagonist leading into "I Need Something New," bantering with the crowd, her smile revealing that no matter how intense the music gets, Savages' passion comes with sincerity and humor.
Mesmerized by their faster and more furious tunes, I wasn't ready for "Marshal Dear," a slower number that featured guest Duke Garwood on sax while Beth played piano and sang. Though the sax gave the song a noisier edge, it would have been a little dreamier without its presence. Speedy or slow, the crowd hung on every note.
Lots of dancing, too -- my friend noted that it was like "old school goth dance night," and she wasn't wrong. The fog machine, the strobe lights and the songs' dance-inspiring backbones had parts of the room feeling more like a nightclub than a concert venue.
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Savages finished off the night with pretty majestic renditions of "Husbands" and "Fuckers," each one as killer as the other. Garwood and a guest guitarist joined the band on stage for the latter and it evolved into exciting controlled chaos, nice and noisy; this time the sax was a definite accent, the song's main line a good one to end the night with: "Don't let the fuckers get you down." Pretty solid advice.