The LA art rockers spin light and shade around a deeper back catalogue that lends them one of the strongest sets of their career
Listening to Warpaint with a load of other people used to feel weird. However much some of their bigger singles pushed towards the middle of dance floor, they always seemed like tracks you wanted to sway to alone. Mastering the art of the headphone epiphany on their first album, The Fool, Warpaint have moved through different moods ever since – landing now at the warmer sunset hues of Radiate Like This on a record that finally invites others in.
Weaving the lighter pop playfulness of the new tracks amongst all the woozy Cocteau Twins melancholia we’re used to, Warpaint return to the Roundhouse with a lot more colours on their palette. They might still be playing to the ceiling of a darkened bedroom, but the energy that comes from the new album makes the live show feel like throwing the windows wide.
Opening with ‘Stars’ – the first track from their original debut EP – before going straight into new single ‘Champion’, Warpaint come out wielding their whole back catalogue at once. Sometimes eerily together, sometimes beautifully apart, the band’s focus is as electrifying as ever. Emily Kokal takes lead vocals on most tracks; Theresa Wayman taking over on ‘Love Is To Die’ (the one that gets most phones in the air), while Stella Mozgawa hides behind the drums and Jenny Lee Lindberg stands in the corner, completely losing herself in her own bass.
Older cuts (‘Intro’ bleeding into ‘Keep It Healthy’, the only way anyone is used to hearing it on the album) mix perfectly with the new material – including barbed anti-anthem ‘Hips’ and the late-sun California dream of ‘Stevie’ – but it’s the stripped back take on ‘Melting’ that proves the real standout. Hugging the same microphone with nothing but Kokal’s guitar for accompaniment, all four members harmonise the best new track off Radiate Like This in complete silence, a throwback here to just how interior Warpaint can be when they want to be.
Leading out with ‘New Song’ (“We’re gonna do a new song now,” laughs Lindberg, amusing herself with the same joke at every gig) and a driving version of ‘Disco//Very’, Warpaint light a fire under the caldron of the Roundhouse. Coming back for a soft encore full of deep cuts (Lindberg’s Record Store Day Fugazi cover, ‘I’m So Tired’, plus original EP favourite ‘Beetles’) and new album closer ‘Send Nudes’ (made weird by someone in the crowd holding up a sign asking the same thing…), Warpaint bring the crowd down gently. After a gig that euphoric, it’s the only thing that’s going to get everyone out the door.
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