Like the best, most feverishly beloved bands, Savages’ finest ingredient may very well be their penchant for sheer unpredictability.
The Ready Room, St. Louis
London’s emissaries of post-punk bedlam rocketed into the Ready Room, a firestorm of sneering attitude and ruthless, wall-of-sound volume. Though Savages’ first appearance in St. Louis should have been greeted by a wall-to-wall, sold-out house, the venue was packed enough by those with enough taste not to let a good rock show pass them by.
Like the best, most feverishly beloved bands, Savages’ finest ingredient may very well be their penchant for sheer unpredictability. Led by singer Jehnny Beth, an absolute force of nature who was born to be onstage, the band whipped and careened like a car chase teetering on the edge of a cliff. Kicking off the assault with the moody and reckless “I Am Here” from their Matador Records debut, the band segued into the driving ’70s New York punk of “Sad Person” from their latest release, Adore Life.
The numerous comparisons to bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division aren’t entirely off base, even though they don’t quite tell the whole story. Though Beth’s approach may echo Siouxsie Sioux, her voice seems far better suited to focus the pummeling intensity of her sisters-in-crime making all the glorious noise behind her. From the sheet-metal storm of “Husbands” to the shape-shifting atmospherics of “When in Love,” bassist Ayse Hassan and drummer Fay Milton provide guitarist Gemma Thompson with the perfect terrain for her glacier-like movements of rumbling distortion.
Much like October’s Royal Blood gig, Savages managed to fit an arena-sized show into a confined space, complete with Beth repeatedly diving into the frenzy-whipped audience for spontaneous bouts of crowd surfing. For anyone whose only experience with Savages is their recorded output, their live show is a different animal altogether. If the songs on an album like Silence Yourself are an emotional earthquake, the onstage versions seem to possess a power that a record couldn’t ever possibly contain. By the time the band launched into “Fuckers,” with Beth proclaiming “Don’t let the fuckers get you down, or steal the thrill of feeling young,” both band and audience locked in groove and heart.
If there was a drawback to the show, it would be the muddy sound mix the band seemed constantly to be fighting. The volume was so overwhelmingly loud in such a small space that it only exacerbated the issue. It’s a shame, because Savages are so much more than a punk band. They’re also gifted players and songwriters, and there are nuances to be heard amid the chaos. Nevertheless, before the show came to an end, Beth proclaimed, “St. Louis, you are fucking awesome!” which seemed to be a clear indication they had a good time, as well. | Jim Ousley