Savages @ Leaf Café, Liverpool 25.07.12

Much heralded post-punk quartet on stunning live form

Jul 25th, 2012 at Leaf Cafe, Liverpool / By Richard Lewis
Savages While their exposure on a national level hasn’t been as all-enveloping as tonight’s headliners (or their support act) Liverpool’s Death at Sea are surely headed to the same lofty peaks of adulation.

With a queue snaking down the venue staircase as soon as the doors open to see their first-on appearance, the quintet benefit from a mix that captures each scuffed guitar line and thrashed cymbal perfectly.

Seemingly having stumbled on a long-lost cache of grunge/US alt. rock classics from two decades ago, the five-piece add their own spin to the golden age of American indie to make it into something entirely their own.

Able to leave some of their best-known tracks out of the set and still have material to spare, the absence of the (soon-to-be) hits underlines the feeling that the band’s have plenty more of the likes of ‘Drag’ and ‘Sea Foam Green’ stashed away for future unveiling.

Now at the level where they can play to an entirely full-house as second support, DAS’ deservedly unstoppable rise continues.

Coming across like The Walkmen’s scruffier younger brothers joyously let loose on the instruments after finding the keys to the practice room, Palma Violets crash through an impressive opening surf-rock salvo.

The dual frontline of vocalist Sam Fryer, angstily testifying between guitar scrawls and bassist Chilli Jenson, staggering across the stage wherever his voluminous fringe leads him make for an engaging spectacle.

Hints of their similarly secretive contemporaries WU LYF detectable in the hollered vocals and the ever-present hammond organ surge are countered with a more abrasive edge than their Mancunian cousins.

Understandably rough around the edges at this early stage, more miles logged on the gig circuit should help the four-piece tease out the melodies that lurk in their densely layered tracks.

Recipients of glowing press notices since their first gig in January Savages quickly demonstrate they are the finished article despite being less than a year old. Where Palma Violets are something of a work-in-progress, the present band have emerged from their chrysalis fully-formed.

A compendium of late 70s early 80s art-rock, the sharp edges and angular guitar lines collide with sulphorous basslines that push the songs forward with unceasing momentum.

A band so new familiar song titles are scarce, their most recognizable track ‘Husbands’ stokes the already delirious audience up even further. One half of the band’s double A-side debut 45, Patti Smith’s influence comes to the fore in its intense rush, the title repeated in the chorus reminiscent of the New York poetess intonation of ‘Horses’.

Vocalist Jehnny Beth, equal parts Siouxsie Sioux and Natalie Portman in Black Swan flits around her microphone, wailing her vocals, gaze fixed on the back of the room. During the course of a set that has Classic Debut Album written all over it, the pinnacle is reached midway through. A juggernaut of rolling basslines, endlessly repeated guitar riffs and repeated vocal refrain rolls into view, all driven by drummer Fay Milton’s exemplary beats, a five minute opus that leaves the crowd open-mouthed.

After forty-five minutes of stunning, visceral music and an abrupt final song that slams on the brakes to signal an end to proceedings they depart the stage, leaving in their wake the feeling that something very special indeed has just happened.