By: Mehek Seyid (@whatthemehek) –
It’s rare to see a band so early on in their career possess the ability to command a stage with the presence of a veteran. With every movement, guitar riff, and cymbal crash, UK-based post-punk revival quartet Savages demonstrated at their show at The Opera House in Toronto last night and why they deserve all of the attention they demand.
Lead singer Jehnny Beth glanced around the venue audience several times over as she asked “Are you coming for the ride? Are you coming?” on set opener “I Am Here”. Based on Beth’s expression, it would be foolish to say no. By the time they launched into their third song, “Shut Up”, with Beth teetering on the edge of the stage, leaning over to lock eyes with individual audience members, it became obvious that there was never any intention of providing anyone with a choice at all.
This sense of control has always been central to Savages’ strategy since launching in 2012. From firing their management team to the titling of their debut “Silence Yourself”, Savages have made it a point to lock in all of ones focus on what they are doing and saying, not through wildish acts but natural demeanor. It is quite fascinating to see this in a live setting. Although bassist Ayse Hassan often performed with her eyes closed, intoxicated by the sounds around her, she was so precise in her strums and performance, even during hard-hitting songs like “No Face”. Guitarist Gemma Thompson had a quiet but large presence, especially when she was floating near drummer Fay Milton, whose staccato rhythms and sudden crescendos pushed the Toronto audience to become more enthusiastic and excited as the show progressed.
But even as they cheered and screamed, completely captured by the entire band, lead singer Jehnny Beth held on tightly to her intimidating reigns, rarely portraying any sense of satisfaction with the crowd, barely allowing the corners of her smile to lift up while saying “Thank You”. Perhaps it was so she could keep herself in character as her arms flailed in a circular motion on stage, often punching out and forward to reinforce the aggressive threats on “She Will” and “Husbands”. Both of these performances found a pocket of the crowd entering Savages world, as they moshed to their movements and sounds, jumping higher as Beth raised her arm and came crashing down as soon as she decided. When they reached the end of their set with the unreleased “Fuckers”, with Beth advising, “Don’t let the fuckers bring you down!” it became evident that everyone in the audience was more than willing to comply with their suggestion. With leaders like Savages, it would be difficult for anyone to bring them down.
Opener Duke Garwood, hailing from London, England brought a soothing opening act to The Opera House. Consisting of a mix of blues, alternative rock, and at times near minimalistic ambient-esque music, Garwood built up a unique but sonically pleasing show. Mixed with guitar, clarinet, and a supporting bassist, Garwood subtly entranced the audience. By the time he closed his part of the night, which featured an early appearance from Jehnny Beth, he certainly had everyone’s attention focused and ready for Savages.
Duke Garwood _____________________________________________________________________________________
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