Savages Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, April 4
Published Apr 05, 2016There was the slightest smile playing on Jehnny Beth's lips when an audience member repeated back to her "I need something new!"
It was a momentary slip of the immaculately prepared character mask cultivated by the Savages lead singer. Beth, real name Camille Berthomier, had a stint as a child actress growing up, which will surprise few that have seen Savages perform live; she lacks not an ounce of agility, delicately floating around on stage with expressive precision, throwing furious punches towards the crowd to accentuate the accompanying headbanging, all of which could only come from someone accustomed to the theatre stage.
Live, Ayse Hassan's bass hooks rattled the floor planks, with reverb-pedals reflecting the opacity of some of the swivelling light effects. Other times, the lighting provided the only blinkering breaks from the tranquility of the pitch black stage, but in these moments, Hassan looked elatedly absorbed by the music, as though she was hearing Adore Life for the first time, while drummer Fay Milton was openly brandishing a smile playing through "Fuckers." The band seemed enthused to play their acclaimed sophomore record to a new audience, and so they should have.
Regardless of enjoyment, there appeared to be an agreement within the group about the well-oiled aesthetics that detail their live show. Slick-haired Beth's dominant stage presence was perfect as she interacted with fans, delivering lyrics that confront vulnerability, resistance and heartbreak with unapologetic anger and a sense of liberation. The weight of her performance was matched by guitarist Gemma Thompson, who delivered waves of aggressive distortion on tracks like "Strife" and "City's Full." "Shut Up" matched her wailing guitars and Hassan's motoring bass line, which was rife with unease. Beth halted the madness on a couple of occasions by indulging in some gentle spoken word that would lead into the accelerated tempo of the next tune.
Dynamism provided the set with a captivating push and pull: at times, Beth grasped the hands rising from the crowd beneath, demanding people move in closer or yell back with greater intensity, even letting the audience suggest what they wanted. At others, there was a sense of serenity; the closing few songs, including "Mechanics" and "Adore," found Beth unravelling devastated soul over beautiful sauntering chords.
Call it a microcosm for existence: powerful emotion may find us lashing out at life in one moment, but we may Adore it the next.