This Savages article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor
Unabashed indie-club New Slang in Kingston is a great place to see breakthrough acts before they play bigger venues. Savages choose the club to play a final warm-up gig before embarking on a tour of the UK, mainland Europe and North America to promote their second album, ‘Adore Life’. New Slang feels smaller than it is, with the area facing the stage making a great little “pit” for getting close up and moshing.
That suits Savages, who want an intimate, communal experience. New Slang is unashamedly a late night venue. No 11pm curfew here. Savages play 15 tracks over more than an hour, ending at 11:45pm. ‘Shut Up’ from Savages’ debut album ‘Silence Yourself’ makes for an explosive start, as slashing sounds break into rich and resonant guitar from Gemma Thompson,. “You look fantastic,” singer Jehnny Beth tells the crowd. “So do you,” someone shouts. They do, all dressed in black and mostly deadly serious, of course, with only drummer Fay Milton allowing herself a cheeky smile.
The lilting ‘Slowing Down The World’ quietens the pace briefly before ‘Evil’ prompts widespread pogoing. Gemma Thompson makes her guitar sing like Will Sergeant’s (from Echo and the Bunnymen) while Ayse Hassan writhes in time to her sinewy bass. Jehnny Beth introduces ‘City’s Full’ — all scratching and scything guitar — as an “oldie but goodie” and ends it by declaring, “Kingston fucking rocks.”
After a long staccato intro, ‘Sad Person’ sees the moshing and crowd-surfing in full flow to accompany the roar of controlled feedback and punky-funky bass. Savages alternate between their albums, dedicating older track ‘She Will’ to “the boys” and welcoming the 50 guests brought by Fay Milton. The drummer repetitively smashes her cymbals hard and fast at the breakdown and again after a final burst of the gorgeous guitar riff at the heart of the song, sparking more crowd-surfing. Savages play the track so fast as it ends that it seems to fall over itself. Fay Milton smiles again.
A massive bass buzz from Ayse Hassan and fractured guitar from Gemma Thompson summon ‘Surrender’, which cascades into swirling chords and chanting by Jehnny Beth. She then asks for lights on the crowd: “Can I see you? Get closer. It’s time to get warm.” A spoken word start to ‘I Need Something New’ erupts into a rolling rhythm accompanied by screeching guitar feedback and effects. As the urgency develops, the crowd’s pogoing and moshing quickens, redoubling after a Stranglers-like bass break is followed by a throbbing punk wail of sounds.
Jehnny Beth joins in with crowd-surfing during ’The Answer’, becoming part of her audience but at the same time, literally, held high above it. The song triggers a wave of applause with its brilliantly brief false stop, then cuts it short as Savages roar back with a retro-punk guitar, bass and drums reprise. A trio of older songs follow perfectly from the punkiness of ‘The Answer’ — ‘No Face’ is controlled chaos and disintegration, ‘Hit Me’ is a “story of a girl who liked a special kind of love” during which Jehnny Beth again throws herself on top of the crowd. While she gets back on stage, the band thrash out a screaming, soaring, industrial white noise. The final offering from ‘Silence Yourself’ is ‘Husbands’. It buzzes like a swarm of bees and Savages could not be any tighter.
New song ‘T.I.W.Y.G.’ takes the gig into its climax, going from loud and fast to louder and faster, with a great slow break two-thirds of the way through to give everyone a chance to catch their breath. Like The Jesus and Mary Chain, it’s so stupid that it’s clever. ‘Adore’ has the venue shaking as Ayse Hassan finds new depths on her bass. The song snakes along, reaching epic heights. Jehnny Beth has an uncanny ability to make eye contact with individuals in the crowd, making them feel she’s singing straight to them. The audience hangs on her every word. She reaches out to touch everyone at the front.
“We were supposed to stop here,” she says, before doing ‘Fuckers’ anyway. Like ‘T.I.W.Y.G.’, even this primeval swamp of a song has its smart bits. Savages next challenge is to bring the close, warm communion of their smaller gigs to bigger venues, culminating at the Roundhouse in Camden on 17 March.