If there is a better band in rock today than Savages, I haven’t heard it.
Supporting its second album Adore Life, a stunner that is every bit as cinderblock-to-the-face powerful as the 2003 debut Silence Yourself while simultaneously a significant leap forward in musical and lyrical expansion, the multi-national quartet took the stage at a sold-out Metro Thursday night with the tense electric energy that only the most select few ever have provided.
Think Iggy Pop at the height of his raw powers, or Kurt Cobain at his most desperately cathartic. Not in terms of imitation. Just sheer intensity.
As guitarist Gemma Thompson solidified a claim to being one of the most inventive waves-of-sound guitarists since Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, only much more aggressive, drummer Fay Milton flailed away as a perpetual motion machine hell-bent on forward propulsion, while bassist Ayse Hassan served as both the rhythmic anchor for the swirling maelstrom and the occasional melodic core.
And Jehnny Beth—oh, Jenny Beth. The singer spent much of her time in the arms of the crowd, which related as much to the ferocious anger of the band’s earlier tunes (“Husbands” in particular) as it did to the more celebratory though really no less frightening new “love songs” (among them “The Answer” and “I Need Something New”).
For Jehnny and Savages, the crowd-surfing isn’t just theater, just as it never was for Iggy or Kurt. The key to understanding it is the second person plural and the sarcasm in the most compelling line of Nirvana’s most famous song: “Here we are now, entertain us.” Saint Kurt was sneering at the very notion of rock ’n’ roll as mere entertainment: It is—or should be—something much more vital, vibrant, subversive, and empowering than that. And we are, all of us, in it together.
If there is a better band in rock today than Savages—more life-affirming and purgative, more visceral and thought-provoking—I haven’t heard it. We need them, and thankfully we have them — 100 percent.