Saturday, September 28, 2013

Savages at The Independent – A Concert Review

     Last night (September 27th), the San Francisco Bay Area experienced a mini-British Invasion. This one won’t have the long-term influences to rival that of the 1960s, but the invasion overtook any defense considered by concert-goers in the area. From London, the Savages captured The Independent and London Grammar grabbed Rickshaw Stop. Artic Monkeys (Sheffield) crossed to the other side of the Bay to occupy The Fox Theater in Oakland. In support of the cause, New Zealand, another area that recognizes Queen Elizabeth II as its sovereign, sent a 16 year to The Fillmore, which was forced to surrender to Lorde. All four shows were early sellouts. If there is a situation in which a territory can be proud after being overrun without a fight, this is it.
     One of us went to see the Savages with friends Pat and Alan. The other headed to a wedding, but is looking forward to seeing the Savages at the Austin City Limits Festival next month. The band is a post-punk female quartet that released its debut album (“Silence Yourself”) in May 2013. The album has experienced commercial success and is on the short list for the “Mercury Prize” as best album of 2013.
     More so than is the case with most bands, listening to Savages' album doesn’t provide  an accurate indication of the persona of the band. It’s not critical to attend a Savage concert in order to understand that persona, since watching a Youtube video (embedded below) will suffice. Still, attendance is certainly helpful. This is a band with attitude – sometimes sexual and other times deviant.
 Here is a short clip posted by someone at The Independent - Thank you Stranger.

     It is tempting to describe Ayse Hassan (bass) as not having much of a stage presence. Hassan did not stray during the hour-plus performance and her dance was mostly above the waste. Often, it seemed she was playing with her eyes closed. However, in comparing opinions as we headed to the car after the performance, we agreed that Hassan held our attention on a regular basis. She had a charisma that was not readily apparent, but it exists.
      Guitarist Gemma Thompson was on the opposite side of the stage, which remained poorly lit through the performance. So, it is difficult to access her stage presence. But her guitar work was very effective. The lighting was almost certainly intentional, The clothing of all four band members was dark, and that’s their pattern.
      Drummer Fay Milton has honed her skills. Milton doesn't just use drumsticks to strike drums and cymbals. She does the little things that get the most out of her equipment and is quck and seemingly tireless. As one example, when the song "She Will" goes into the chant that is the song title, Milton holds a cymbal firmly with one hand while striking the cymbal in order to set the pace of the chant. 
     The band’s main presence is lead singer Jehnny Beth. A trite description of a portrait is to state that the person’s eyes follow you as you move around a room. With Beth, the opposite is more accurate. When she locks eyes with you, there is no desire to move. And she seems to make a point of achieving prolonged eye-to-eye contact with every individual within five feet of the stage. Beth had a good energy for the first eight songs. During the ninth, a mosh pit materialized and her energy was positively affected. She announced after the song that the mosh pit was what she was waiting for and that she appreciated the San Francisco crowd. Yes, last night was one that evidenced just how much the audience affects the performers and their performance.

     Duke Garwood opened for Savages. Jehnny Beth joined Garwood and his bassist John Hostile for the last song in their set. In return, Garwood and Hostile joined Savages toward the end of the setlist shown below. Interestingly (at least to us), Beth and Hostile were a duo prior to formation of Savages.  
1. I Am Here
2. City's Full
3. Shut Up
4. I Need Something New
5. Strife
6. Waiting for a Sign
7. Dream Baby Dream (A Suicide cover song)
8. Flying to Berlin
9. She Will
10. No Face
11. Hit Me
12. Husbands
13. F**kers (with Duke Garwood and John Hostile)
14. Marshal Dear (with Duke Garwood)
No encore.

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