Warpaint – Live at The Deaf Institute, Manchester 24/10/2010

By Joss Worthington

It’s not quite Halloween yet, but that’s not stopping the lighting crew at the Deaf Institute from making the stage look like London Fog, Jack the Ripper era. Warpaint casually take the stage engulfed by dry ice and sombre green ‘mood’ lighting, prompting singer Emily Kokal to rightfully ask ‘What’s with the Fog Machine?’

Ah those quaint Anglo – American differences. They say TO-MAY-TO we say TO-MAR-TO. We say Smoke Machine they say……..err……Fog Machine. Meanwhile, stage right her partner in crime Theresa Wayman offers a few bemusing mic checks, hollering a few ‘ho’s’ down the mic before rather mischievously adding ‘I’m a ho!’ With a declaration as bold as that it’s a good job this isn’t London, Jack the Ripper era.

You can’t blame the house manager for going all out with the moody atmosphere though. On record, Warpaint’s sound is certainly mysterious and moody, beguiling and sombre.

They open with (the rather easy for me to remember) ‘Warpaint.’ Hell, calling a song after the name of your band worked for Iron Maiden so why not Warpaint? Although I’m guessing that there are not too many Iron Maiden fans in the capacity crowd tonight.

What becomes quickly apparent and for the rest of the set is how incredibly well the songs from their debut EP and LP translate live. At times on record Warpaint appear to be more content to dwell in a dark recess of reverb. Live they push themselves much more to the forefront.

Emily Kokal perches on the edge of the stage during ‘Composure’ singing out to a spellbound audience ‘How can I keep my composure?’ Somehow she manages to and instead of falling into the crowd she returns to perform the single ‘Undertow’ resulting in fits of hysterical screaming from the Warpaint Ultra fan club stage left.

Kokal, Wayman and Jenny Lee Lindberg (bass/vocals) combine their weaving spooky harmonies to haunting affect. The vocal refrain of ‘What’s the matter? You hurt yourself?’ subtly borrowed from Nirvana’s ‘Polly’.

There are echoes of early Cat Power and perhaps even The Breeders in their vocal style. It’s kind of reminiscent of a group of cheerleaders meddling with heavy narcotics.

But despite their youthful age Warpaint are anything but little girls lost. I don’t think I can ever recall having seen another band appear to be having so much fun onstage whilst impeccably delivering their craft. There appears to be an incredible chemistry between them and an effortless exuberance for playing live. It really is a joy to behold.

The house manager can’t win tonight. As soon as he switches the mood setting from ‘Saucy Jack’ to ‘Turn on The Bright Lights’ Wayman shouts down the mic ‘Why are the lights so bright??’ before leading into the slithering guitar intro of‘Elephants’. A heavy blast of fog bellows out into the air once again, perhaps as an offering of apology to the photo sensitive guitarist.

The only real downer tonight is the no show of the rather excellent ‘Billie Holiday’ from the ‘Exquisite Corpse’ EP but all in all this is a truly memorable live performance evocative of the kind of raw emotion that support band Friction can only dream of.

If you’ve heard some Warpaint songs on record and are not too sure about them then I would urge you go out and see them live where you will find them to be a totally different prospect all together. For those of you who are already convinced, prepare to be amazed.

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