Unless we’re mistaken, the girl stood in front of us has just fallen in love. Up on the stage, as Savages vocalist Jehnny Beth grips her microphone, fixes us with a deathly stare and howls the lyrics to set opener ‘Shut Up’, a man stood by us turns to his partner, jabbing her triumphantly in the ribs. “I told you, I told you they were brilliant,” he shouts as she looks on somewhat awestruck.
Savages have simultaneously been blowing minds and scaring the shit out of people for just over a year now, although it’s difficult to believe they’ve only been performing live for twelve months. Anyone who’s witnessed their live show will know they’re immaculate, but that’s not to say polished - their dark, spiky abrasions are too heavy-laden with tension. It’s not even the fact that they look fantastic; Beth is as striking as any front woman could hope to be with her impossibly short hair and slender frame decked in baggy black clothing with heels - no what’s truly astonishing is the band’s already uncompromising sense of precision and control. Things have gone off track tonight though – the band appear fifteen minutes late, standing onstage without turning on any lights. The moments pass before Beth announces they don’t know where their monitor engineer is. “Are we fucking ready yet?” she intones from the shadows.
Their music starts as a roar of swirling noise, instantly on the attack, enveloping all in its path. Guitarist Gemma Thompson provides menacing and vibrating fogs of white noise, Ayse Hassan bullying the drones of feedback with pummelling basslines, while a motorik backbone is provided by powerful, consistent beats from drummer Fay Milton. Amid it all, Beth stands her elbows jerking and arms flailing, yet her body is taught, rigid with concentration her manner almost feral. The vocals, one moment a gravelly yelp the next a scathing waver, cut through the noise as though on the prowl… hunting. The comparisons to Siouxie Sioux are eye-rollingly predictable but not without merit – no more so than on the angular, thumping ‘I Am Here’ where her yells slash through already jagged rhythms.
Later she introduces single ‘Flying to Berlin’, imploring us to “dance to this one” – only Savages could claim something so bristling to be their “dance-track”. Later comes a song, probably called ‘Fuckers’, dedicated to “all the fuckers you’ve ever known” and reminding us that a wild punk heart beats at the core of this brooding, pop-noir racket, but it’s the still terrifying ‘Husbands’ which bruises us even further into submission. As if we needed to be of course.
Words by Dannii Leivers
Photos by Richard Gray