Savages

support Bo Ningen
author MIN date 07/03/16 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Last night Savages returned to Store Vega where they’ve played almost exactly two years prior to this concert. The band has garnered raving reviews for their latest album ”Adore Life”, and word about their recent live performances is that they’re a band at the top of their game. Having seen Savages in both 2013 and 2014, I’m aware that they pack a punch live, but still I’m excited to see how they’ll deliver their newer and more direct and honest songs in concert. However, at the same time, I’m a little worried about tonight’s attendance; The band played NorthSide Festival last summer, and in four months they’ll be performing at Roskilde Festival – so how many people are actually inclined to show up tonight? The balcony around the ground floor and stage is closed off, and as I enter the venue a quarter to eight very few people are present.

Photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Bo Ningen

Opening for Savages throughout their European tour is the Japanese acidic noise rock band Bo Ningen whom Jehnny Beth & company have previously released the collaborative album “Words to the Blind” with. Prior to the concert, I’ve heard a handful of their songs and found them rather interesting (despite not understanding a single word being sung, as their lyrics are delivered in Japanese), but in no way did they prepare me for what I was about to witness. As soon as all four members of the band are fully present on the stage, standing above a rather small crowd, they synchronically blast out an incredibly heavy and abrupt opening for their first song of tonight’s show. Within three seconds, the band has already grasped what little audience they’re performing for, and you can already tell that in no way do they intend to let go before they’ve had their say. The sheer musicianship displayed during their performance is nothing short of amazing, and as bassist and vocalist Taigen Kawabe forces his upper torso to reach the other side of the speakers in front of the stage while playing an incredible bassline without any plectra, mocking us with a grin which expresses pure superiority, I cannot help but laugh; this is the kind of live performance most bands only dream of being able to display.

Guitarists Yuki Tsujii and Kohhei Matsuda play each their part; one throws off riff after distorted riff while the other plays either a psychedelic solo, toys with the feedback or just plays an entirely different riff which in one way sounds similar and keeps the pace, but in another seems completely alien and void of cohesion. At the same time, drummer Monchan Monna sits tightly but keeps, and occasionally exceeds, the intensity and energy level by throwing in killer fills and drum rolls now and then. On stage, the band is beautiful and chaotic at the same time, bouncing up and down, back and forth, standing on monitors, and generally just looking like they’re having a great time. Few humble words are spoken between songs, thanking both the audience and Savages for having them, but it doesn’t really matter; when the band finishes off their show after thirty minutes, the audience (which has now grown considerably in size) wants more. Bo Ningen came, they saw and they conquered. They took us on a journey through everything within the realms of art- and post-punk, noise- and math rock, psychedelic- and post-rock. It’s how I imagine it would sound like if you tried to move an entire nuclear factory. I’d hate to be the act that has to follow these guys…

9

Savages

At approximately five minutes to nine, an electronic beat pulses through the room which lets us know that in a little while we’ll be greeted by the band. The beat goes on for about six or seven minutes, and suddenly before us appear the four young women who Savages consist of, bathed in white light. Gemma Thompson starts ruffling her guitar and makes the iconic noise that introduces the song “I Am Here” from the band’s first album, “Silence Yourself”. Drummer Fay Milton suddenly joins followed by Ayse Hassan on bass, and when Jehnny Beth starts singing, it’s evident that the sound guy knows what he’s doing. Every instrument; every sound; every scratch on the guitar string is remarkable, and combined with the bright spots highlighting the band, the concert is already a delicious gulp which goes down smoother than an eighteen-year-old single malt. During the second song, “Shut Up”, the band quickly shows that they’ve got the urgency and punch that has been promised before the concert as Beth and Milton ebb with energy. Thompson and Hassan, however, both seem quiet in comparison, but they play their instruments with a surgeon’s precision. Whatever is needed of her, Thompson is able to play; both ferocious and delicate riffs, but also a broad variety of dark soundscapes. On bass, Ayse Hassan not only shines during the song “Surrender” where she tunes the instrument so it almost sounds like an electronic drop being played live on the strings, but also the fast and hard-hitting lines found throughout the band’s discography sound rich and full constantly.

As the band reaches the eighth song, “Slowing Down the World”, from their latest album, “Adore Life”, the crowd seems to get a little restless, and a lot of people leave to fetch a beer despite Jehnny Beth’s claims of having no better place to be than right here, right now. Luckily, the band makes up for the crowd’s slight by turning the intensity of the concert further up, and when the next song, “City’s Full”, ends, people start to sweat a little. Before you know it, “The Answer” comes swinging in with a fistful of steel, and from here on out the concert only gets wilder. That song is followed by “Hit Me” and features Jehnny Beth suddenly walking out into the crowd, kneeling on the audience’s hands and crowd-surfing her way back to the stage. If one thing can be said about her, it’s that her presence is incredible. She is there, she is welcoming, she is open, but she’s still cooler than cool. She loves the crowd, and they love her. Whatever claims have previously been made about the band being introvert are laid to rest as Beth interacts with the audience with a delightful mix of raw aggression and bare honesty.

The concert reaches one of its many highlights when Ayse Hassan plays the bassline to the song “T.I.W.Y.G.” with such skill and intensity that it makes you think she could outrun tomorrow. At the same time, Fay Milton pounds the drums so fast that you mistake it for a locomotive running off the tracks, and you’re quickly reminded that that rhythm section is nothing less than a powerhouse of its own. When the song is over and people start to roar, all the lights fade to black. Fay Milton and Jehnny Beth both leave the stage and shortly after the latter returns. Thompson starts driving her plectra up and down her guitar strings, thus setting in motion the ballad “Mechanics”. Shortly after, Jehnny starts to sing. The song is performed a lot noisier than on record, but still Beth’s voice is crystal clear in the mix. “Mechanics” is followed by another slow burner, “Adore”, and Beth has by now cemented herself as not only a great entertainer but also as an amazing vocalist. She did it earlier in the set on “Husbands”, but it’s during this song that you really feel her like you never have before.

At this point, the band could have easily left us and we’d all be satisfied, but no. Instead they invite all four members of Bo Ningen to take the stage and join them in their final song, “Fuckers”. With all eight musicians on stage, the show suddenly turns into a dance party with the entire floor in the venue jumping along. The amount of guitars, drums and basses present makes the entire room seem like one big brick of sound, and the band finishes on a high at the end of a concert that’s gotten progressively better throughout. Savages prove themselves worthy of all the acclaim they receive in the media, and I cannot wait to watch them once again at this year’s Roskilde Festival. They’ve always sounded good live, but now they also have the stage-presence to back it up.

Setlist:

  • 1. I Am Here
  • 2. Shut Up
  • 3. Sad Person
  • 4. She Will
  • 5. Husbands
  • 6. Surrender
  • 7. I Need Something New
  • 8. Evil
  • 9. Slowing Down the World
  • 10. City’s Full
  • 11. The Answer
  • 12. Hit Me
  • 13. No Face
  • 14. When In Love
  • 15. T.I.W.Y.G.
  • 16. Mechanics
  • 17. Adore
  • 18. Fuckers (feat. Bo Ningen)

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