Les Savy Fav; Scala, London, Monday October 22

Looks as though that Gig Of The Year contest is well and truly over…

Les Savy Fav, Scala, London, October 22, 2007. Pic: Andy WIllsher
There’s a man in tight, white trousers climbing up the speaker stack and, as the screaming crowd eggs him on, he’s peeling off his top. But this, friends, is no Razorlight gig, although Borrell might want to watch for some tips in how to be seriously fucking awesome. Tim Harrington – bearded, Buddha-bellied frontman of Brooklyn hipster-metal-dance-thrash-punk wet dream Les Savy Fav – is God tonight.

Striding onstage in a top hat, blond wig and lecturer-gone-wild blazer and jodhpurs, cracking a cat o’nine tails on his hand, he’s the man to make all other performers obsolete. All of which makes the initial lack of enthusiasm from the obviously slack-jawed audience all the more perplexing. ‘The Equestrian’, possibly the best ode to horse kink in modern rock (made even more incredible by Harrington pulling an unsuspecting young lad from the crowd and riding him like a horse around the stage) should turn people’s insides out there and then, but it incites a disproportionately little frenzy down the front.

It’s shaping up to be a spectacle undeserving of the audience, but maybe that’s an old-versus-new issue: latest album ‘Let’s Stay Friends’ is poppier and newer and maybe it just hasn’t earned the ‘Inches’ love yet. But then something happens. It could be ‘The Sweat Descends’ acting as catalyst, or it could be that the sheer showmanship is finally having an impact, but everyone loses it at the exact same time, and the crowd finally fulfil their side of the bargain by dancing like loons.

When Tim shows off his spectacular balcony aerobics (“I really thought

I was gonna fall then! No, I really did”), the brilliance of Les Savy Fav becomes truly clear: they terrify their fans. When it looks like Tim’s about to leap from his precarious perch, you can see the crowd thinking, “Jump! Hold on, don’t jump on me! Hold on, jump! We don’t know! We’re confused… but it’s brilliant!” And when the first hints of the encore’s full-blown stage invasion start to emerge, Tim grabs his new friends, sits them on the floor with him and screams in their faces, leaving the clearly rattled revellers to hurl themselves into the crowd as soon as they can wriggle free: Les Savy Fav are so shit-scary that they’re their own security.

And that’s handy when their encore – already a legendary, word-of-mouth, were-you-there? moment by the time of writing this – collapses into brain-crushingly brilliant elation-chaos. Everyone ends up onstage, under the thrall of a rotund bearded ringmaster who is, by this point, dressed in nothing but a pink nightie. It’s not weird. It’s a nod to our mass conjugal rights – earlier in the show, Tim had got down on one knee and proposed to us all, mid-throng and mid-song, “though this is a bit cult-like and polygamous and might not be strictly legal”. Since you’re asking, Les Savy Fav, world’s best live band, we most definitely do. Though you can leave the weird horse stuff out of it.

Rebecca Nicholson

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