Intoxicating and much more grounded and bass-driven than their newest album suggests, Warpaint are definitely worth seeing live.
Before Warpaint took the stage, however, and they most definitely claimed it as their own, the support act, All We Are, had their turn. It’s always hard to fairly judge a support act – the sound is rarely set up well for them, and they’ll always seem to fall short of the main event, but these guys weren’t actually all that bad.
The drummer in particular made a real effort to bring some energy and style to the stage with his thorough invocation of the sleeveless t-shirt, Club Tropicana vibe, although his fellow two band mates failed to follow suit.
While the first few songs didn’t bode well, some good grooves did begin to emerge as the set warmed up. By their last song, when the guitarist pulled a Jimmy Page and played his guitar with a bow, they had actually roused a respectable level of energy from the crowd.
Warpaint, however, were something else. From the moment they walked on, there was an enchanting confidence about their stage presence. Their music floats on many a flight of psychedelic and drifting fancy, but the four women themselves were very much with the crowd and connected to the gig throughout.
‘Billie Holiday’ stood out as a particularly memorable performance, in which the band takes some of Smokey Robinson’s lyrics from ‘My Guy’. There is something maturely sensual and honest about Warpaint’s sound, which makes a welcome change to a lot of modern girlish sexuality in mainstream music, and this song emulated it perfectly.
Warpaint’s live sound reverberates with a strong undercurrent of drums and bass, which I hadn’t expected from listening to their albums. This actually works in their favour as without it their wispy and wandering vocals sometimes run the risk of becoming a little directionless.
To find fault with this gig, you would have to compare it with their last live performance in Oxford, which apparently contained much more spontaneity. There were a few moments where the women would play off each other, and especially so in the encore medley, but on the whole they didn’t much deviate from their curated set.
That said, it was still a stunning gig. The sound was some of the best I’ve heard at the O2 recently, and listening to and watching four talented, confident and sexually self-assured women was an unexpectedly rare treat.