Savages // The Opera House // 12.09.13
On Thursday, September 12, in an old opera house on Toronto’s Queen Street East, Savages took the stage. The London-based post-punk band had chosen their venue well; the rounded, sculpted edges of the stage augmenting their serious on-stage presence. The lights lowered down towards the crowd like tractor beams, cutting through the microphone and transporting us to the set of some surreal, underground film.
There’s a level of perfectionism that’s expected from girl bands that doesn’t seem such a big deal when watching all-boy bands. This sounds terrible, but I think it might be true. Girl bands are perhaps just as common as boy bands, and though there have been some very successful girl bands (Spice up your life, esp. of the 90s), there seemed to be many more successful boy bands (BB Boys, Nsync, Linkin Park, Simple Plan, esp. of the 90s.) It’s interesting and maybe a tad flukey but it’s seemingly true, and I think I’ve touched on why. If a group of girls take to a stage with their instruments, if they dress in hardcore, punk-rock clothes and then start slashing windmills on stage, leaping from their amps, but creating music that makes us, the listener, want to stab our ears out, then the music is taken as angsty, teenage girl music, thought up quickly and without foresight, and used mostly a mechanism for complaint. However, if a group of boys does the same thing, and creates the same lack luster music, they’re taken as progressive or as being artistic. However, there are quite a few all-girl bands out there who seriously create music, who stand before a crowd of all ages and seem to encapsulate an entire room merely with their presence. There are girl bands who move as an entire entity, who dance about each other like insects skirting over a lake, who seem to touch, then spin away like moths around a flame. There are some fantastic girl bands out there that, and I’m glad about this, are slowly but surely altering the image of a girl band. And one of these bands is Savages.
Jehnny Beth paced before the crowd, reaching her hand out towards us like one possessed, drawing us in over and over again. She had the crowd enraptured from the start, and we waited on tenterhooks for her to sing. Jehnny composed her songs like an artist before the crowd, and the show became more of a performance art piece than merely a concert. She would kneel, she would pace the lip of the stage before the crowd, eyes wild like a caged animal. She would belt out her notes, flip her head back, fall to her knees. And all in four inch stilettos. Beth’s rhythmic swaying and hypnotic hip movements seemed to bring us back in time. And the venue added to this backdrop. It felt like we were at a 90s underground concert, deep in the heart of the subway tunnels, or down some dank, dark basement. Expertly timed slides paired with kaleidoscopic guitar riffs reminded one of the smokey underground. Beth seemed to shake off lyrics like raindrops, and with a small twitch she would launch the band from one song into another, like a fabric without a seam. The music swelled up from the stage and filled the room like a bubble, with soaring lyrics, with powerful force behind her voice, Jehnny could send her voice out into the void and we would hear it echo off the walls for eons. Shut Up, with it’s spine-tingling opening riff jarring through the crowd, with Jehnny dancing in spurts, staggering about the stage, singing her jagged lyrics, caused shivers to ripple through the crowd.
Only Jehnny, of course, could put the night perfectly into words, and she closed the concert off with a beautiful sentence. She sat on an amp in her louboutin heels and waited, silently, for a song to build behind her like the crest of a wave, and she said “Now that we’ve deconstructed everything… it’s time to put everything back together.”
For photos of Savages @ The Opera House, click here.