By Xin-Rui Lee, Staff Writer
With their black-and-white aesthetic pegged down and perfected, the ladies of London-based Savages exude an irresistible effortless cool. Releasing their sophomore album “Adore Life” in January of this year, they’ve taken on a somber, even darker tone, but their message and signature punk rock ferocity touched with a flair of elegance remains the same. Their lyrics address such issues as smashing the patriarchy, religion, conformity and love. Their exterior may look and sound anarchistic, but they’re more about empowerment and progress than despondency and angry dissatisfaction. This sort of incongruity certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it draws an interesting demographic, which was reflected in the odd mish-mash of audience members during their show at Irving Plaza last Monday night.
Front-woman extraordinaire Jehnny Beth, the commanding presence and driving force of their live shows, came on stage with her hair immaculately coifed and wearing a black bomber jacket, resembling Begbie from the film adaptation of “Trainspotting” (also irresistibly cool). They cut right to the chase and open with “I Am Here” from their debut album “Silence Yourself.” With Beth thrashing about on stage belting out powerful lyrics and accompanied by white strobe lights, Savages delivered a performance as energetic as their music. Then abruptly taking it down a notch, Beth looked into the eyes of the audience and tenderly coos “So many skinny pretty girls around,” before launching into “City’s Full.”
With each song, it’s obvious every member was giving their all, even if for guitarist Gemma Thompson that just meant standing in a corner and looking obscenely cool wearing thick black eyeliner and an unchanging expression of ambivalence. Unfortunately, the energy reciprocated by the audience was so vastly incomparable to that of the women on stage that it was kind of sad to witness. Throughout the evening Beth made attempts to incite some life into the audience with her antics.
Casually stepping across the gap between stage and audience, Beth perched herself atop the barrier, dripping sweat onto the first row of fans. “This song isn’t going to start till you come closer!” she cried as she beckons the crowd to swarm towards her, “those who wanna film go to the back.” They then proceeded to play what some might consider the crowning track of their career thus far, “Husbands.”
The performance was as strong and impactful as one would anticipate of these four ladies driven by a purposeful philosophy, which is explicitly spelled out in their several manifestos on their music. “It’s about opening-out and never, ever dying,” their manifesto on “Adore Life” reads, “But most of all it’s about love, every kind of love,” because “love is the answer.” Appropriately, the ladies wrapped up their show with their anthemic 10-minute-long single that leaves us to consider the last pearl of wisdom for the evening, “Don’t let the fuckers get you down.”