This is my first visit to The Courtyard Theatre in Hackney, but I can tell I’ll like the place from its casual mixing of Darius (remember him?) and The Stone Roses. Who wouldn’t enjoy a place that can meld the sacred with the profane with such ease? The underground wine bar has what once would have been a smokey atmosphere prior to the ban, but which is now a dark, romantic place, reminiscent of bygone days. It is here that Anna B Savage will play support to DM Stith in her first gig on home soil since releasing her debut single, the wonderful ‘I’. The delicate lament has been lauded by the likes of Gold Flake Paint, and The Line Of Best Fit, and, for me, there’s a curiousness as to whether her warts and all approach to songwriting, displayed so vividly in the single, will translate to the live setting.
What is clear from the moment Savage takes the stage is her presence. As she tunes her guitar she steals a glance out at the audience, a glance that is indecipherable as nervousness, defiance, or simply petulance. Probably a combination of all three, Savage channels them all into a thousand yard stare that suggests she would have been an excellent headteacher in another life. As if in unison with her outward intensity, Savage’s music is set somewhere between PJ Harvey and Jeff Buckley, combining Harvey’s bare instrumentation and cutting lyricism with Buckley’s soaring, near operatic vocals.
As she plays, the audience watches and listens in complete silence. The silence is a mixture of reverence at her wonderful vocals, and, equally, the raw vulnerability of her music. Each track is a challenge to the audience. A dare to bear witness to the bloodletting of the kind of things that most people are too shamed to display in public. It is quite something for a performer to stare down her audience as she croons, “She could only sleep / With an image of a gun between her teeth,” as Savage does on her penultimate track of the evening. For some, it is too intense and they scuttle off to the cosy confines of the main bar. Their loss.
Prior to this, she explores her debut single ‘I’. A delicate, and mournful ballad about abusive relationships, it is a definite highlight as all the singer songwriter’s disparate elements align perfectly in a performance that is intense, but not in a heavy handed, or overwrought, manner. On her final song of the evening, and before she abruptly leaves the stage, Anna asserts that she will, “Never amount to anything.” I beg to differ. She is on to something here. Something pure. Something honest. Something savage.
Find Anna B Savage on Facebook.