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The stage at Manchester’s Albert Hall is ready for Warpaint’s arrival, bathed in an atmospheric purple haze and decorated with plants draped with fairy lights. The girls march on stage to huge applause, though they all seem rather relaxed. Especially the bassist, Jenny Lee Lindberg, who is wearing blue jeans and carrying a mug of tea, treating the stage as if it were her living room.
Despite this relaxed atmosphere, the opening track ‘Bees’ is by no means mellow. Stella Mozgawa immediately impresses the audience with her intense drumming, which sadly overpowers Theresa Wayman’s quiet vocals. Emily Kokal’s guitar playing lifts the track to new heights and she begins to harmonise with Theresa, hinting more of what’s to come. After only one song, Warpaint have managed to show off their otherworldly signature sound.
Fading into ‘Intro/Keep It Healthy’, it becomes apparent that there is no clear frontwoman in this band, which makes for an interesting live experience as you find yourself watching each band member rather than solely fixating on the lead singer. The first 3 songs act as a short introduction to Warpaint’s evolution as a band, moving from their first album onto their third, when they play the title track ‘Heads Up’, which starts with a brilliantly funky bassline.
‘Hi’ begins eerily, with Theresa’s delicate vocals sounding more impressive this time around. Suddenly, in typical Warpaint fashion, the song moves in an entirely different direction halfway through, with the introduction of tight drumming, reminiscent of hip-hop, which indicates their wide range of influences from Massive Attack to Dr Dre.
The band are greeted with immense cheers from the crowd as Lindberg starts playing the infectious bass line of their biggest hit ‘Undertow’. Theresa’s guitar riff is incredible and Emily’s vocals are at their absolute best, she also begins to have a more commanding stage presence, walking to the front of the stage and leaning into the crowd. This song takes the show in a grungier direction which continues with ‘The Stall’, a song interspersed with beautiful harmonies and emotion that drips from the way they sing the lyric “No, I won’t give up on you”.
Theresa teasingly offers $100 to whoever can guess the next song, which turns out to be ‘CC’ from their second album, written for Lindberg’s husband. As they start playing ‘Beetles’, Theresa starts to jump around the stage excitedly, singing with so much passion that she ends up screaming. A couple of dedicated fans even get on their friend’s shoulders at this point. Unfortunately, the song trails off as Mozgawa experiences some cymbal issues, which are quickly resolved. For ‘Elephants’, more of Kokal’s playful personality shines through as she starts semi-twerking around the stage, lightening the mood of their otherwise moody songs.
‘Love Is to Die’ surprisingly produces a mosh pit and Theresa and Emily even start twerking against each other! A bizarre sight for a band who previously seemed to be so reserved. The energy continued to skyrocket during the anthemic ‘New Song’, which sounded less ‘pop’ than it sounds on record. The mood suddenly darkened with the arrival of ‘Disco//very’ defined by Lindberg’s bass playing and its brutal lyrics “Don’t you battle, we’ll kill you, rip you up and tear you in two”, which presents the women as a formidable force in alternative music, who aren’t afraid of being criticised for not being ‘feminine’ enough.
The band leave the stage then return for a mammoth 3 song encore, beginning with ‘Biggy’, a track inspired by Notorious B.I.G. Jenny Lee tells the crowd that there is “such good energy” in the room before she gives Theresa the chance to play bass on ‘So Good’ (which, fortunately, is SO good). They could’ve easily ended the set here on a high, but instead the closing track ‘Krimson’ was a bit of a comedown. Nevertheless, the audience left the venue fully satisfied with the bizarre yet cathartic evening they had just spent with Warpaint.