Although anticipating a full venue for a sold out show, I was surprised to find people of all ages jammed in every nook and cranny, making the Imperial seem cozier and mustier than usual. I observed an older couple subtly squeeze their way to the front of the stage with difficulty as I waited for Head Wound City to warm up the already buzzing crowd.
The chatter was quickly overwhelmed by heavily distorted guitar lines and angsty vocals. If the talking was loud, the amps went louder, and Jordan Blilie upped his octave. If you went out that Friday looking for some standard punk, you would have come to the right place. After a fair bit of shouting and some leaping into the crowd, Head Wound City’s short opening set was complete. They said a few too many “Thank You”s and retired, leaving the crowd anxious for Savages.
Or maybe it was just me. Having missed their first performance in Vancouver at the Biltmore Cabaret a few years ago, those who had attended the show had heightened my expectations beyond belief. There are only so many times you can be told how mesmerizing Jehnny Beth is before you really get your hopes up. I seemed not to be the only one with high standards, as several mosh pits were feverishly planned around me during the set break.
As Beth herself shouted during the encore, “none of these fuckers let me down!” I have never seen a show quite like Savages. It was hard to know where to look because each band member commanded all of my consideration. Aryse Hassan and Fay Milton — bassist and drummer, respectively — stole the show particularly on “I am Here” and “Husbands” from Silence Yourself, whereas guitarist Gemma Thompson received more spotlight on “The Answer” off the band’s latest record Adore Life.
Regardless of how hard I tried to stand back and observe the entire spectacle like a well behaved RLA reviewer, Jehnny Beth stole my soul from the second she walked on stage. She threw herself into the crowd song after song, and if you were anywhere near the front, you had to have been fully prepared to catch her at any time. Beth commanded our attention, took it all, and threw it back in our faces. Furthermore, her voice was perfectly melded into the band’s instrumentation. “City’s Full”, “She Will”, “Fuckers”, and “Adore” were just a few of the many outstanding moments during Savages’ set. It is rare that you find a frontman with the amount of charisma and vocal talent that Beth possesses in just her pinky finger.
Savages left the stage just after midnight, all too soon for the crowd. The packed Imperial reluctantly filed out, each one of us not so secretly hoping for an encore that would last the remainder of Friday night. Needless to say, I am not so patiently awaiting my next opportunity to see London’s finest post-punk band play again.