Savages are an easy band to approach with skepticism. First there’s the hype. Lots of it, steaming out of their native U.K., which made theirs a tough ticket to get at last fall’s CMJ Music Marathon. Then there’s the artier-than-thou vibe certain press clippings and photos of the typically black-clad quartet convey.
Though the buzz helped the London post-punks sell out the Triple Rock on Sunday night, preconceived notions mattered little once the band stoically filed onto the stage. “City’s Full” off their two-month-old “Silence Yourself” LP immediately flexed the rhythm section’s muscle. Bassist Ayse Hassan was a four-stringed engine, steadily propelling the rumbling track (and others to follow) and freeing guitarist Gemma Thompson to anarchically scribble and squall at will.
The spindly “Shut Up” proceeded and singer Jehnny Beth started coming into her ready-to-strike stage presence. Like her lyrics, Beth’s movements were stern and rigid. She stalked the stage like a predatory cat during the slinking “I Am Here” before honing in on a trot-to-gallop crescendo.
As it's often written, echoes of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division ring out in the band's moodier moments. Savages’ songs often methodically advance from dark and dreary to all-out bashers, with hard-hitting drummer Fay Milton battering away behind her kit, guitars screeching.
“This is a song called ‘Fuckers,’” Beth proclaimed before one such tune. “It’s for all the motherfuckers.”
A la Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Savages have made their preference for phone-free shows known on this tour, posting signs in venues imploring fans to refrain from taking pictures and video. Naturally, this didn’t stop some from whipping it out (their phones, that is) mid-show. During the penultimate “Hit Me,” Beth crouched over the monitors to deliver her jagged vocals closer to the crowd. One repeat, front-row offender couldn’t resist the photo opp, only to have the singer snatch the phone from her hand (pretty sure she got it back).
“Husbands” brought the nearly hour-long set to a spiraling encore-less close. The packed house seemed primed for at least one more well-crafted brash number, but fans will have to wait until September 17 when the London four-piece returns to headline First Avenue. Based on Sunday’s show, Savages will have no trouble handling the bigger room.