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Savages / Bo Ningen (live at The Roundhouse)

17 March 2016

St Patrick’s Day in chilly London, and I’ve opted out of going out drinking in pubs filled with (mainly English) people wearing green hats and pretending they always liked Guinness in favour of going to see some rock’n’roll, in the alarmingly hipsterised Roundhouse (a craft ale stall? Bar snacks ranging from “nuts” and “crisps” to “bags of meat”? Crikey), because the mighty Savages are playing, supported by the equally mighty Bo Ningen. Which is quite a line-up, though hardly a surprising one, the two bands being long(ish)-standing friends and collaborators.

Unfortunately, due to roadworks and a traffic light which I only realise is ACTUALLY fucked several hours later when I’m on the way home and a passenger warns the driver that it’s knackered and if he’s not careful he’ll be there for half and hour, I miss most of Bo Ningen’s set. Yuki‘s already playing his guitar behind his head, and Taigen‘s swinging his round like the nipple tassel on a particularly enthusiastic exotic dancer.

It’s a bit like turning up at a party where you know one of the attendees will get drunk and do something hilariously unwise, only by the time you get there he’s already lost his trousers and set light to the kitchen. It’s fairly clear this is their big finishing crescendo, though this being Bo Ningen, that means there’s still a fair bit of music to go. They don’t believe in ending things suddenly, and in just the few minutes I witness they unleash more rock’n’roll energy than most bands can manage in an entire set. Judging by overheard conversations at the bar afterwards, they’ve made a lot of new converts.

Then it’s time for Savages. Last time I saw them the awesomeness of their live show was only slightly marred by a lack of material, given that they had one (excellent) album to their name at the time. Now, with the release of Adore Life, they’ve got enough stuff give us a full-length set of consistently high-quality material. Songs from both albums sit comfortably alongside each other, the broader focus offered by Adore Life helping to give things a more dynamic flow.

Dressed all in black and lit exclusively in white, it’s a pretty harsh, serious look, like eagerly youthful Situationist shock troops (or possibly Crass), but this is anything but a fun-free zone. Between the awesomely danceable rhythm section and Jehnny Beth‘s captivating stage presence, it’s as celebratory as it is righteously furious. Though there’s no escaping the fact that twenty years ago they’d have been called a goth band; nowt wrong with that, mind, but it’s worth pointing out. There’s rabble-rousing rhetoric, there’s climbing on the shoulders of the audience, and there’s a hell of a lot of rock’n’roll. Also a drummer who stands up, which is always cool.

In keeping with the stripped-down, no-nonsense aesthetic, there’s no encore. But what we get instead is far better — a superb take on live favourite “Fuckers” for which they are joined by Bo Ningen, meaning we essentially get two of every instrument. Having seen (and massively enjoyed) their joint performance a few years back, it’s cool to see them all just rocking out together again, Bo Ningen’s acid metal chaos complementing Savages’ intricacy perfectly.

And then, too soon, it’s all over. And it’s time to face that bloody traffic light again. Still, this time I’m not complaining; I’m in far too good a mood for that.

-Justin Farrington-

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