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Warpaint live in Paris: mannerism can create something original

I guess it is better to clarify something about the title from the beginning, so that for once you won’t have to wait before getting to the core of our report.
When you listen to a band which reminds you of a number of other acts with regards to certain sounds, certain rhythms and certain melodies, you are no longer in front of a good exercise of mannerism: at that point, you might start wondering to leave aside any kind of comparison and start thinking of being in front of something that could actually be considered as an original product. However, in this case, there is a background voice that does not really let you abandon yourself to the astonishment and sense of surprise you feel when you are actually listening to something really new and different from what you have heard before, and this is the feeling I got last night at the concert of Warpaint on March 20 at the Élysée Montmartre in Paris.

But now, first things first. After arriving at the venue unnecessarily far in advance, Dear Reader gets on stage – opening act of the evening, based in Berlin but straight outta Johannesburg. It seems already that the word “art” will be the leitmotif of the night. Dear Reader is a project led by Cherylin MacNeil who, along with Evelyn Saylor, Stella Veloce and Olga Nosova, actually manages to be true to their intentions: “art-pop to make your heart stop”.

An indeed, let’s stop for a second to spend a couple of words on this interesting quartet by starting with Olga Nosova‘s nearly flawless performance at the drums, to finally get to Cherylin MacNeil‘s charming voice and melodies. We find ourselves in front of something that we might not be able to understand at first glance, but that certainly leaves some curiosity in the listener, mostly for the feeling of epicness that is able to induce. At times it even seems to hear something distant and tribal, almost like a war chant – and this is the case of the beautiful acappella version of ‘Victory‘, which live seems to remind us of ‘The Ripe & Ruin‘ interlude by Alt-J on “An Awesome Wave”. Their music is something to look into, for sure. 

After several minutes of waiting which allow the audience to fill the beautiful hall of the Élysée Montmartre, Warpaint make their appearance on a stage that seems maybe even a bit too big for them – the four are quite far from each other. Maybe it is because the Parisian crowd is usually a bit hard to involve and it takes some minutes to get acquainted with the pace of the show, but the first songs of the setlist are played in a rather calm and quiet atmosphere, starting from ‘Heads Up‘ – title track of the band’s latest record – up to ‘No Way Out‘.

Sure things is that, in a setlist quite various that includes songs taken from all the three LPs released by the band, the tracks that shake up the situation and sound great on stage are those coming from “The Fool”. The show goes on pretty smoothly on a relatively relaxed mood even when Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman “show off” the best of their vocal abilities, and at that point I understand that I should not expect anything particularly crazy or surprising from the gig. The performance is linear, almost flawless, organized (slightly disturbed only by a problem with one of the microphones and enlived by Jenny Lee Lindberg forgetting to connect the ampli to her bass guitar at the beginning of one song), maybe even too much. But there are anyway definitely interesting things to note.

Well, if there’s one thing I learned from this live, is that Warpaint should not be underestimated, although critics have argued in the past that there was a bit ‘too much hype’ around the band: talking about music, we are faced with something eclectic and changing, on which you can not have monolithic and rigid expectations. As already many lines have been spent on so many music magazine for comparisons with different bands (Cocteau Twins above all, for example), Warpaint live – at least for what we have seen last night – have a rather more unpredictable sound, that seems to settle in the intersection between Bombay Bicycle Club‘s “A Different Kind of Fix” and “So Long, See You Tomorrow”, melodies a bit more Foals-like and background rhythms and distortions much more post punk-ish. What comes out is something that, in my opinion, hardly could be called prog or psychedelic, but surely there are some art-rock, post punk and dream pop imprints.

Skipped the encore for reasons of time, we get to Love Is To Die’, ‘News Song’ and ‘Dre’ without pauses. Quickly I’m back in the unusually quiet boulevard de Rochechouart – it’s just Monday, after all. I got to the Élysée Montmartre a bit skeptical and with some doubts, I’m getting home satisfied to be left almost without any of them.


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