After two support acts who displayed a disappointing and total lack of variety and range in their songs, Barrence Whitfield & The Savages brought a welcome mix of blues, soul and rock’n’roll to the stage. The band is currently touring a string of dates around the country following last year’s release of their album Dig Thy Savage Soul, their first since 1995. However, their musical cohesion and chemistry made it look like they’ve never been away. Barrence’s powerful vocals and sense of fun in his performance shone through the best in such soulful numbers as ‘You Told a Lie’ and their cover of soul legend Lee Moses’ ‘I’m Sad About It’. Opener ‘Bip Bop Bip’ is classic 1950s rock’n’roll with extra kick, while ‘Willie Meehan’ had distinctly punkish flavours.
There was a satisfying blend of music from throughout the band’s career, including tracks such as the blues-rock crossover ‘Bloody Mary’, written by bassist Phil Lenker, which featured on their very first album in 1985. The closing track ‘Walking with Barrence’, which hails from the band’s sessions in 2010 when they reunited for a new album, is five minutes of pure blues fun, and is a worthy conclusion to the evening’s entertainment.
Unfortunately the enthusiasm of the performance was neither fully rewarded or met by the crowd, who consistently disobeyed Barrence’s command to dance and sweat a little, and the number of people in the room seems to drop slightly as the night goes on—quite surprising, given that the majority of the audience seemed to be made up of dedicated fans the band have accumulated over their 30-year career, as opposed to curious newcomers. Despite the huge enjoyment all the band members were clearly getting out of the music, they fell just short of recreating the magic, common at gigs in such tiny venues as Sound Control.