Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Savages Return To LA

30 SEPTEMBER, 2013
For the third time this year, Savages returned to Los Angeles, continuing their upward ascent before a rabid crowd at the Fonda Theater. Their debut appearance in LA was April, setting down at the Echoplex for a show around their Coachella appearance. After their debut LP's release, they came back for two sold out shows at the El Rey Theater. Bringing us up to the present, the Fonda's upstairs was closed, but the lower half was filled, and the band showed no sign of reticence on the bigger stage. They tore through songs from "Silence Yourself", and unlike the one-note, runaway train intensity of previous sets, they varied the tempo, using "Waiting For A Sign" to showcase guitarist Gemma Thompson. Hauling out a piano for lead singer Jehnny Beth, and bringing aboard opener Duke Garwood to reprise his clarinet performance from the recorded version, they essayed a stark version of album closer "Marshall Dear" that had the audience rapt before they returned to the previously scheduled pummeling. "She Will" and "Husbands" encapsulated the proceedings, kicking the crowd into a frenzy, and underscoring the importance of the engine room, bassist Ayse Hassan's stout support, verging on lead lines, and drummer Fay Milton's unquenchable drive. At the core of the matter was Jehnny Beth, intensity manifest, her every sinew poised for attack, evidenced best by the red pumps that broke up her otherwise all black wardrobe. Close up, even the veins in her feet protruded, she was invested fully.
In lieu of an encore, they finished off the evening with Johnny Hostile and Duke Garwood joining in the fun for a lengthy jam on "Fuckers (Don't Let The Fuckers Get You Down)", that stretched out into Stooges Fun House-era territory. A satisfying finish from a band that seems determined to push at their limits.
On the home front, Silence Yourself is nominated for this year's Mercury Prize, and Jehnny Beth took a page out of the Godspeed You Black Emperor hymnbook with her own take on the proceedings. Regardless of how the gala turns out, they've made quite a splash with their debut, and frankly, their live interpretation dwarves the recorded version. This is a band you'll want to experience.

Duke Garwood led off the evening, and in Savages tradition, it was not a separate entity, but an extension of the whole. An opening act is part of the family, setting the tone and laying the groundwork for what's to come. Backed by Pop Noire co-head Johnny Hostile on bass, Garwood kicked off with a desert rock vibe that seemed lodged between the Dirty Three and To Bring You My Love-era PJ Harvey. Unconcerned in the least with getting to a chorus, Garwood and Hostile conjured waves of dread, testing the audience, before breaking into more bite-sized song structures. As the set built, it became apparent that this was one man's personal take on the blues, evoking the mood without falling prey to all the cliches that implies.

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