Reviewed on Wednesday February 5
Back in May, UK four-piece Savages put out one of the year’s most fascinating records with debut album Silence Yourself. An equal parts fragile and abrasive collection of distinctive modern post-punk, it’s little wonder they were one of the most buzzed-about acts on this year’s Laneway bill; an excitement superseded only by the announcement of accompanying headline dates in Sydney and Melbourne.
Melbourne-based duo A Dead Forest Index set the night’s mood in reliably haunting fashion. The pair constructs droning, gloom-laden soundscapes, with guitarist/vocalist Adam Sherry crafting an atmospheric wall of sound through minimal guitar chords and an often ethereal voice. The ambience is punctuated by brother Sam’s understated, sparse percussion.
Through a thick fog of smoke, Savages emerge – dressed in black, without a word of banter. Solemnly moving into opener ‘I Need Something New’, the band demonstrates an undeniable presence. Perhaps most immediately notable is the energy emanating from vocalistJehnny Beth – despite the bleakness of the quartet’s music, Beth is an incredibly charismatic, confident frontwoman. As they move into the decidedly more lively ‘City’s Full’, it becomes apparent that Savages’ music is, at its roots, made to be heard firsthand. For all the brilliance of their studio material, the songs sound infinitely more intense when performed live, given a sense of immediacy and spirit.
One of the most interesting things about Savages is how each member of the band negotiates between bold independence and collective unity. While each is a proficient and captivating musician in their own right, as a unit Savages are a dynamic, synchronous entity that mesh together perfectly regardless of – or because of – the cacophonous sound they produce. Throughout the 80-minute set, they deliver a generous selection of tracks from Silence Yourself, along with a new, fairly aggressive number simply titled ‘Fuckers’ and a sublime cover of Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’.
Despite only playing their first show a little over two years ago, you’d never be able to tell from the sheer intensity, cohesiveness and power they project from the moment they take the stage until they leave. Ultimately, Savages are one of the most utterly compelling live acts I’ve seen.