Savages @ 9:30 Club - 3/27/16

Savages released the follow-up to their 2013 debut Silence Yourself recently in the form of Adore Life, a ten-song epic that refines and focuses their post-punk sound. The album has met with nearly universal acclaim, avoiding the sophomore slump that many bands that meet the kind of early success that Savages had often go through. On Easter Sunday, the band brought the new album to the 9:30 Club to a crowd of dedicated fans.

An issue often faced by bands in their early years is a lack of material to sustain a show. The last time that Savages were in town, they faced this; having only one fairly short album and a couple of EPs to draw from led to a quick, abbreviated performance. Even with two albums under their belt, the options are somewhat limited. The band’s solution? Play the new album in its entirety, along with three quarters of the first album. If there was a particular song that anyone in the audience was hoping to hear, chances are high that they got it. Enjoy it now; it won’t be possible when the band has several more albums under their belts.

Jehnny Beth of Savages delivering a blistering performance at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC on March 27th, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon /  @arcane93 )

Jehnny Beth of Savages delivering a blistering performance at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC on March 27th, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

The band opened the set with “I Am Here,” the declarative statement from Silence Yourself. Singer Jehnny Beth strutted across the stage with a confidence that belied the fact that the band has been doing this for a while now, something their sudden catapult into fame didn’t afford them the last time around. When she noted later on in the set that this, their third performance in the District, was their best yet, it was doubtless in no small part due to the amount of time the band has put in on the stage over the two years since they were last here. For their part, the band – guitarist Gemma Thompson, bassist Ayse Hassan, and drummer Fay Milton – seemed content to hang back and serve as the foil to Jehnny Beth’s intensity.

If there was one criticism to be leveled at the band, it was that this very intensity risked coming off as being performed at the crowd, rather than to the crowd. As a result, much of the audience seemed to be passively watching rather than moving with the music, an oddity given how ferocious the music was. Jehnny Beth’s between-song banter during the early part of the show consisted primarily of spoken-word performance; it wasn’t until later in the set that she seemed to loosen up a bit and notice the audience was there. This was made up for by two points where she came out into the crowd – first standing out on the barricade supported by people in the front row during the fifth song of the set, “Shut Up,” and then later crowd surfing and standing literally on top of the audience during “Hit Me.” From an audience standpoint, these were the most energetic parts of the whole show; Savages would do well to try to find a way to channel some of that energy into the rest of their performance.

The band doesn’t do encores, though Jehnny Beth leaving the stage for a minute while a crew member came out and reset her microphone seemed almost like an encore break (the rest of the band remained on the stage, waiting for her return). They closed the set out with their one non-album track of the night, their 2014 single “Fuckers.”