Savages @ El Rey Theatre, July 23, 2013
Savages–Jehnny Beth (vocals), Gemma Thompson (guitar), Ayse Hassan (bass), Fay Milton (drums)–are not fucking around.
Musically tight, aesthetically fully formed, with a rare air of integrity, all the more impressive for being a relatively new band, they tore through their set at the first of a pair of sold out nights at the El Rey. Loud and bracing, they’re simultaneously affirming and challenging, intellectual and primal; easily one of the most convincing live acts to roll through town in a long while. DeRogatis is perhaps only slightly exaggerating in calling them “life-changing”.
They work within familiar post punk rock structures with guitars (tense riffs punctured by showers of noise), bass (alternately funky, dubby, industrial, punk), and drums (metronomic disco to tribal thumping). And, above it all, vocals that quaver with sheer power and fiery lyrics that both inflict and react to terror. From her short hair down to the ironic pumps on her feet, she’s a budding icon, in a classic lineage with the likes Siouxsie, Ari, Ian.
Playing a dynamic hour with no encore, they ran through a dozen tunes, including nearly the whole of Silence Yourself, their debut LP. The only slight misstep of the night was the energy lull when they brought out Johnny Hostile, their compatriot/producer, who opened the show with his own compelling solo take on post punk, to supply some additional guitar noise on the final number.
Although far more visceral than The xx, there’s a similar sense of seriousness and purpose about Savages as that band (more than just their shared penchant for wearing all black). Much as The xx built on the likes of Young Marble Giants and ultimately found their own voice and widespread success, a similar path might be in their future.