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They never simply go through the motions; never play it as if a set is just another box to be ticked off on the touring circuit. On their previous visit to Dublin, in the National Concert Hall last August, Warpaint kept the crowd on their feet for the duration of their performance – no mean achievement in an all-seated venue that doesn’t really lend itself to that kind of thing. Whatever the setting Warpaint inhabit their songs fully, the groove and rhythm of every one illustrated through their movements onstage, each member completely invested in the end result.
There are no background players in this band. Two risers occupy the further reaches of the stage – drums to the left and bass to the right – the rhythm section of Stella Mozgawa and Jenny Lee Lindberg on a level footing. The pair barely needs to exchange a glance these days. Instead, heads toss and bob with the ebb and flow of the rhythms, intuition taking over in a sonic partnership honed over months and years of touring. It’s around the hypnotic pulse of Lindberg’s low end and Mogzawa’s fluid, fascinating drum patterns that Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman weave one another’s guitar lines and vocals…and it’s a joy to watch.
Propelled by Mozgawa’s seamless blend of acoustic and electronic drums, it’s a kinetic run-through with little breathing space between numbers. She leads the charge on ‘Beetles’, driving it along with a kick drum thump until it transforms into a watershed moment in the set and the band shift up in gear. Their third album, Heads Up, was released late last year and deployed a much more beat-driven, dance-infused sound. Its influence has permeated their entire live set on this Vicar Street outing. Kokal’s “Are you guys ready to dance a little bit now?” question late-on seems superfluous – even the Warpaint songs of old are infected with a dancier lifeblood, the entire evening charged from that first note struck in darkness.
Wayman hops up on Mozgawa’s riser with a drumstick to lend some percussive layering to ‘Keep It Healthy’, before eschewing guitar altogether for ‘Love Is To Die’. She gets things going at the coda, jumping at the wings and inciting the crowd for the night’s most banging moment. “You guys fucking rule!” Kokal shouts as it ends, before ad-libbing a brief passage from ‘Kiss From A Rose’ with some sympathetic drum accompaniment from Mozgawa. “This song is only slightly as good as that” she laughs as ‘New Song’ follows Seal’s finest hour.
From the syncopated beats, to the guitar interplay of Kokal and Wayman and the vocal harmonies of any permutation of the four band members, Warpaint create an aural atmosphere like no-one else. Theirs is an easy stage presence that commands attention. There’s not a lot in the way of theatrics or patter. There’s no need for it. For a band to hold a crowd in a bubble for the length of a set like this is a skill – an all-too-rare occurrence that’s become the norm at a Warpaint live gig.