Review: Cash Savage & The Last Drinks at Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent (Sydney Festival)

January 20th 2017

Sydney - January 18, 2017: Cash Savage and The Last Drinks perform during the 2017 Sydney Festival (photo by Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival)

All photos: Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival 

When you mix in equal parts the first two Velvet Underground albums, add some Beasts Of Bourbon and bits of the Cramps, Gun Club and Nick Cave, out comes the not-like-any-of-them-but-inspired-by-them-all Cash Savage & The Last Drinks.

They were simply magnificent – and then some – in the Spiegeltent as part of Sydney Festival. Great songs and a totally in-the-moment band – and then there’s Cash Savage, a true force of nature with (endearing) swagger’n’attitude to burn.

The first and only time I’d seen Cash and her band prior to this show was a lunchtime show at a Melbourne record shop. They were as good as you can be at lunchtime in a Melbourne record shop: okay, but not life changing. In between, I’d been mesmerised and rather obsessed by their most recent album, One Of Us – a significant leap forward from their previous record, which in itself was pretty damn good.

But it’s live that Savage and her Last Drinks come into their own. This was one hell of a powerful, confident and intense show. Just over an hour in length, it drew mainly from the current record, with highlights including ‘Sunday Morning’, ‘Run With The Dogs’ and a storming rendition of their ‘Rat-A-Tat-Tat’.

During the performance, Savage prowled the stage, alternating between playing guitar and simply singing. The Last Drinks themselves were always totally there – right, right there – and frequently breathtaking. Joe White is a mighty fine guitar player, Rene Mancuso plays the thundering rhythms that are so essential to this band’s sound, Chris Lichti is a versatile bass player. And then there was the inspired craziness and passion of Brett Marshall on banjo and Kat Mear’s searing and uplifting violin playing.

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Savage has a formidable stage presence – menacing and brooding at times, and delightfully ‘gee wiz, we’re playing Sydney Festival, go figure!’ at others.

She is one mighty fine songwriter, a superb vocalist – but it’s the full impact of her and the Last Drinks which makes it obvious why they’re destined to be a festival circuit drawcard both here and overseas (they’ve started to make inroads in Europe) for many years.

This is a band that, yes, does echo all the artists I mentioned earlier – and my partner reckons she heard Patti Smith influences in there as well. But what’s so great about them is that they don’t sound like slavish copies of any of those inspirations. There’s a grab of the Velvets there, a bit of Gun Club a few minutes later, and a Cave-like intensity at others, but what you get overall is something special and distinctive. Savage and the band describe what they do as ‘dark country blues’, but they’re much more in the rock’n’roll tradition than that.

After watching last night, it’s clear that Cash Savage And The Last Drinks are already world class. And they’ll just keep getting better, and darker, and more intensely scary. In the best possible way.

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Host of Tune Up on Tuesdays, 12-1pm.

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