Concert review: Savages @ Opera House in Toronto | Sept. 12, 2013

Post-punk quartet Savages perform unreleased material, feature Duke Garwood onstage at Opera House

Album artwork from 'Silence Yourself,' the debut LP from Savages. Savages performed material mostly from this release at its Sept. 12 Toronto performance, but also showcased some newer, unreleased songs.

Album artwork from ‘Silence Yourself,’ the debut LP from Savages. Savages performed material mostly from this release at its Sept. 12 Toronto performance, but also showcased some newer, unreleased songs.

While post-punk quartet Savages played a Toronto gig at the Mod Club just back in July, when the London, England band’s fall tour made a stop at the Opera House Sept. 12, it proved it was up to more than clinging to the opportunity provided by a critically lauded debut LP.

To wit, the band’s solitary full-length, Silence Yourself, accounted for the majority of the band’s set, and to no profound surprise. They opened with “I Am Here” and its My Bloody Valentine-reminiscent noise intro, followed by consistently arresting performances of chilling tracks like “City’s Full” and “Shut Up” (full setlist below).

But Savages also used the occasion as a vehicle for planting the seeds of some newer, yet-to-be released material – and with it some sonic forays the band has been pursuing.

First there was “I Need Something New,” that was led by Fay Milton beating an entrancing war pattern into her kick and tom drums while guitarist Gemma Thompson let some notes stretch out into what (with the help of a delay pedal) seemed like infinity. When singer Jenny Beth lent her voice to the mix, it was to give articulation to what came across as spoken word. Then Milton started involving her cymbals, crashing the song to its climax as Beth screamed a line that was first repeated several times, then poetically deconstructed and (in a move that was both artistically and logically clever) developed into the song’s titlesake. All along the way it was every bit as haunting as you’d expect from them.

The band also injected some rarities into the mix: “Give Me A Gun” from the I Am Here EP, and “Husbands” B-side “Flying to Berlin” – the latter introduced by singer Jenny Beth as “a song to turn you on.”

They closed the set proper with another new one: a track that Beth has called “Fuckers” at previous performances. Prior to performing the track, Beth explained the song’s central refrain was inspired by a friend’s note left at her house:

“I have a friend – a very good friend of mine. He said, ‘don’t let the fuckers get you down.’ He came to my house, he left a note, and it said, ‘don’t let the fuckers get you down.’ I have good friends.”

After the band took bows and walked offstage only to have a techie rush over to their gear and check on tuning, where in the past the band has claimed aversion to encore performances, there was little question that one was going to happen at the Opera House.

When the quartet returned – in a move that you couldn’t really say was unexpected – they brought with them show opener Duke Garwood, carrying with him the clarinet he played earlier in the night to deliver the part he provided on Silence Yourself closer “Marshal Dear” as Beth tucked into a piano.

It wasn’t the only non-new material treat the audience got that evening: if they got there early enough, fans were able to catch Beth lend her own guest talents to the swirling closer that ended Garwood’s set of guitar, clarinet, and bass noise.

Savages were announced as shortlist contenders for presitious U.K. and Ireland music award the Barlcaycard Mercury Prize on Sept. 11. Let’s hope the increased exposure that comes with the nomination leads to some more news regarding their new material in the near future.

Savages setlist
“I Am Here”
“City’s Full”
“Shut Up”
“Give Me A Gun”
“I Need Something New”
“Strife”
“Waiting For A Sign”
“Flying To Berlin”
“She Will”
“No Face”
“Hit Me”
“Husbands”
“Fuckers”
Encore: “Marshal Dear” (feat. Duke Garwood on clarinet)

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