Manchester Ritz, Manchester
9th November 2013
(Photo right © Kaz Wyatt, it first appeared with an earlier review of Savages from 2012.)
Last week Savages embarked on easily their biggest UK tour so far, including one date in London’s 2300 capacity Forum. For Louder Than War though Fergal Kinney caught them in the smaller, more intimate confines of Manchester’s Ritz. Check out his review below.
‘The world used to be silent’ are the words emblazoned across the sleeve of Savages’ Mercury-nominated debut LP ‘Silence Yourself’, ‘now it has too many voices and the noise is a constant distraction’. At Manchester Ritz tonight, it is Savages intention to crash through distractions with their own manifesto of noise and dogma – unafraid to be intense, confrontational or close to the bone. Live, Savages are a far more visceral affair than their thrilling but somewhat icy LP would suggest, this dictated by guitarist Gemma Thompson’s guttural physicality, in contrast to (but working perfectly with) the stark and angular rhythm section. Jehnny Beth cuts a compulsively watchable presence, a stick-thin silhouette with a severe crop stalking the stage with more than an air of confrontation about her. Though sniffily derided as derivative, their sound has already begun to expand – more noticeable than ever on the final song of the night, an unreleased workout (quite literally, Jehnny Beth is jogging on the spot for most of the song’s six minutes) around the maxim ‘Don’t let the fuckers get you down’, sounding like PiL at their most danceable and simultaneously menacing.
Alhough Savages wear their post-punk influences on their sleeve (indeed, tonight they cover Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’), it’s in their songs that they become something very different to merely the sum of their record collections – it’s not just the exhilarating debut single ‘Husbands’ that is greeted with rapture tonight, but nearly every track from the album. ‘City’s Full’ broods for just long enough before re-erupting into a fury of dirge guitars and crashing cymbals, whilst the guitar line to ‘She Will’ is received with near exaltation.
Like benevolent dictators, Savages are intent that their way is adhered to for the ultimate good of the audience – signs on the wall ask the ticket payer to ‘silence your phones’ for the purpose of ‘discovering better ways of living and experiencing music’. This is no idle threat; there’s confusion in the audience as Beth berates an audience member for filming a song early on and dips into the crowd to address the dissenter. Fortunately, the coffee-table chattergentsia whose collective ears prick up at Mercury nominations are nowhere to be seen tonight; the audience comprised seemingly exclusively of greying post-punkophiles in Wire t-shirts and rows of teenagers (largely female) clinging tightly to Jehnny Beth’s every breathless yelp. And right they are to do so; with the dust now settled on ‘Silence Yourself’, Savages have proved themselves superior to the hype band tag labelled to them on account of their very swift rise to prominence. This is a band with a future because, as shown tonight, they offer something cerebral yet thrilling, saturated in philosophy without being sloganeering, minimalist yet sonically huge and ultimately, just incredibly strong.
All words by Fergal Kinney. More writing by Fergal on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.