Warpaint at First Avenue, 3/29/14
Photo By Erik Hess
With Cate Le Bon
First Avenue, Minneapolis
March 29, 2014
Warpaint took nearly four years to release their second album, so it wasn't surprising that they took a while to heat up at First Avenue on Saturday night. But the Los Angeles art-rock quartet eventually found a spark during their 90-minute set, which drew equally from their new, Flood-produced self-titled album and their 2010 breakthrough, The Fool.
Slideshow: Warpaint rock First Avenue
Starting with "Feeling Alright" seemed to be a clandestine way for the band to gauge the mood of the audience. When the club responded warmly as the song came to an end, Theresa Wayman exclaimed, "All right. I see how you guys are."
The band is fronted by Wayman and Emily Kokal, childhood friends who shared vocal and guitar duties throughout the performance, both musicians adding flourishes of sonic texture wherever it was needed. But they had an icy cool demeanor for much of the night, keeping some distance between them and the crowd that they never fully bridged. That rightfully put more focus on the songs themselves, which gradually coalesced as the night wore on.
The rhythm section of bassist Jenny Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa formed the pulsating heart of the performance, and they were locked in throughout the entire show, giving songs like "Intro" and "Hi" a restless, slinky cadence that was infectious and irresistible. A mercurial version of "Composure" found the band really hitting their stride, with the track featuring a feisty intro that gradually gave way to a moody, seductive spirit. Kokal dropped to her knees while delivering her impassioned vocals, an unguarded moment where she was clearly lost in the song's essence.
Photos By Erik Hess
Lindberg took a moment to thank the crowd and praise Minneapolis in a bit of a backhanded way, "It's wonderful to be back here in Minneapolis. We thought it would be a lot colder, but it was actually really beautiful here today. It's a great place." Wayman provocatively stood on the edge of the stage as she led the band through their current single, "Love Is to Die," which was momentarily plagued by Kokal's guitar issues, but eventually her Smiths-like riffs kicked in and the alluring number took off. After a loud ovation, Wayman affectionately declared, "I thought Chicago was amazing last night, but you guys are killin' it."
A haunting, evocative take on "Biggy" kept the momentum rolling, leading to the band trying out a new, unreleased song called "No Way Out," which featured towering beats that were augmented by ominous red lighting that complemented the menacing undertones lurking within. Warpaint's songs are typically slow-burning affairs, with tension building to an eventual release that proves to be enticing and euphoric. "Undertow" followed that formula perfectly, as the group's poignant melodies and throbbing beats built to a guitar-laden finish.
The group heard the audible thumps coming from the Record Room upstairs, causing Wayman to joke, "Are we missing out on something? Fuck the rave." A mellow run through of "Billie Holiday" slowed things down considerably, with Kokal and Wayman elegantly working Mary Wells's Motown classic "My Guy" into the song. Things picked up quickly for the last song of the main set, as Wayman announced, "I don't think you're going to have a problem dancing to this next one, because you clearly know how to dance -- and we know how to bring the dance to you." Lindberg led the group through a dynamic, uptempo take on "Disco//very," which had a Luscious Jackson-like vibe to it that did get the crowd moving to the track's seductive charms.
Photos By Erik Hess
The encore proved to be the highlight of the show, as a simmering version of "Drive" luxuriously started things off, before Mozgawa took over on a vibrant take on "Bees." Wayman clearly felt the electricity in the room at this point, exclaiming, "Hell yeah, you guys are wicked. It's been real trill. We fucking love you." The night came to a boisterous end with a massive version of "Elephants," which built to a funky, discordant jam that found all four members adventurously pushing the sonic parameters of the song. The crowd emphatically bounced along to the towering beats that exquisitely filled the room, as Warpaint ended the intoxicating show on an unquestionable high.
Personal Bias: The last time I saw Warpaint was opening for School of Seven Bells in the Entry in 2010. They have really blossomed into a great live act, with enchanting songs to match.
The Crowd: Not quite a sell-out, which gave those that wanted to dance the room to move.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I can't take my eyes off of Theresa's belly button."
Photo By Erik Hess
Random Notebook Dump: Cate Le Bon and her tight three-piece backing band delivered a fiery 35-minute opening set that easily won over anyone unfamiliar with her coming into the show. The Welsh singer tore through blistering experimental tracks from her recent record, Mug Museum, and ended her tempestuous set with a scorching version of "Fold the Cloth" that was simply stunning in its ferocity. Cate won over plenty of new fans with this set, and only made me love her that much more.
Keep It Healthy
Love Is to Die
No Way Out
Billie Holiday/My Guy
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