With his delicate bones, bare feet and French aristocratic shirt and pants, I figured maybe this is how the kids felt, all coked up and seeing Bowie in the early eighties. Though Sean Nicholas Savage appears to be a solo act, one cannot walk away from a performance of that caliber without giving earned credit to the two men behind him on synthesizers and backup vocals, respectively. Dressed equally debonair, they added layers of velvet declination to what was already a visceral performance.
To break up a set of Savage’s growling, pleading, jiving, puckish croons, he paused and read poems to us from crumpled scraps of paper. The one that struck me the most was a piece about squeaking suburban sneakers through a shopping mall. And suddenly I was in a visual trip, seeing Savage fleeing the crushing banality of a city subdivision that had left him feeling misunderstood. I have a feeling he was not popular in high school. But those who usually were seemed to have peaked there, left behind in teenage glories as the rest of us grew up.
As Savage pranced, grooved and lolled across the stage in his fine-spun bare feet, he sang songs that were surely his intimate dreams, but instead of having a performance that was revealing to the point of being overwrought, he showcased a craftsmanship for the art of songwriting that was both beautiful and cool.
Truly, it is all about context. If Savage was a forty-something man trying to put this stuff forth in Vegas, it’d never fly. Try it twenty-something years earlier however, throw in some sexy gender fluidity and a couple of synths, and you’ve got yourself Montreal in all of its glory. The crowd consisted of adoring, doe-eyed fans, singing every lyric of those sultry numbers.
Working with Montreal’s darling, Arbutus Records, Savage’s latest release, Other Death, is being cited as “a master of tenderness, in pursuit of the rarer beauties…” This, as quoted from Arbutus Records themselves. But aptly put, as Savage himself seems to be one of those aforementioned rarer beauties.
As the set ended, leaving Savage to grab his keyboard player suggestively from behind (“Ooo, he’s so uptight!” he laughed, as the keyboard player was nonreactional – I’m sure he’s used to antics like that), the crowd called for an encore, which they got.
And after reading aloud another one of his personal pieces of spoken word, Savage shrugged off the aftermath with, “Miracles happen every day.” Ah, but they really do not, Sean. That’s why you’re so special.
Photography by Kate Mada