Gig Photographs and Review by John Bentley

Warpaint

Unusually, it’s a totally female cast at the Manchester Apollo tonight, headlined by acclaimed Californian band Warpaint, playing some rare UK dates.

Due to horrendous motorway traffic I unfortunately arrive just as Martina Topley-Bird is finishing her set. It sounded interesting, with a glitter-faced Martina performing solo with guitar and electronic devices. She’s probably best known for her work with Tricky, on his celebrated ‘Maxinquaye’ album, but she has recorded quite a body of solo work since.

PINS

As the hall fills up, Lou Reed tracks play out over the PA, honouring the passing of the very influential musician, without whom the bands on the bill tonight would probably not sound as they do. Anyway, next up is a pleasant surprise in the form of Manchester all-girl guitar band PINS, who are promoting their debut album, ‘Girls Like Us’. There are a lot of different influences in their music, but they seem to be carving a style of their own and they really rock. They’ve also got real style and attitude, they’re good musicians and lead singer Faith Holgate has a strong and distinctive voice. They end in style with the title track from the new album, with the drummer standing on her drums and really whacking them. An excellent choice of band to open for our headliners tonight.

Warpaint

Warpaint are an interestingly different sort of band, yet they seem to have wide appeal judging from the near sell-out in the large Academy 1 tonight. The audience is pretty diverse in terms of age, sex and whatever other sort of categories you care to define. Describing their trademark sound is not easy, but I saw one review which suggested that it was like Sonic Youth’s 80s guitar noise tracks being sung by 60s girl pop group The Shangri-Las. That’s quite difficult to imagine, but hearing Warpaint, it seems to make sense. They play a sort of melodic trance-like groove, with captivating two or three-way vocal harmonies that are sometimes loose and sometimes tightly fashioned. They have some great songs and have very much developed a sound of their own.

Warpaint

During 2010/11, Warpaint made a bit of a splash touring their well-received debut album ‘The Fool’, including a Glastonbury appearance. Strangely, while they are now promoting some tracks from their forthcoming album, to be entitled simply ‘Warpaint’, it isn’t released until early 2014. The set opens with a new song ‘Keep it Healthy’, which will appear on the new album. It seems a little more rhythm and techno-orientated than their characteristic echoing guitar sound, but it sounds good, has a real groove and has their characteristic breathy vocals. A few songs in and singer and guitarist Theresa Wayman tells us they are excited because their new single ‘Love is to Die’ came out today. Again, it sounds more synthy and techno and a little influenced by sound of the The xx, with whom they toured. Not a bad thing, as bands need to move on and develop if they are to have longevity.

Warpaint

With the new album still forthcoming, most of tonight’s set is sensibly made up of familiar and much-loved tracks from the ‘The Fool’ and the great ‘Exquisite Corse’ EP, which launched the band’s career back in 2007. A song that draws a big cheer is their ‘hit’ ‘Undertow’, which Theresa describes as their ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.  Maybe they’ve got fed-up with playing it as it appears on the album, because they deliver a rather different and interesting version, which is much more up-beat and has tight dual harmonies between Theresa and Emily Kokal. That’s followed by a further big cheer as we get the mellow opening guitar chords of another favourite, ‘Billie Holiday’. There are a few technical problems with crackles from the amps, but the song still sounds beautiful and deservedly gets a rousing reception.

Warpaint

The set ends with ‘Krimson’, with Theresa taking over the drums from Stella Mozgawa. For the encore Emily Kokal returns solo with guitar and performs a rather lovely velvety version of ‘Baby’, from ‘The Fool’ album. Finally the band come together for the finale of ‘Elephants’, which develops into an hypnotic lengthy band workout, with guitar duelling between Wayman, Kokal and bass player Jenny Lee Lindberg. There’s a great reggae-ish rhythm set up in this number, which reminds me of girl punk band The Slits, and not a bad thing that is. With this the evening draws to a triumphant close.

Warpaint setlist:
Keep It Healthy
Bees
Hi
Composure
Burgundy
Love Is to Die
No Way Out
Undertow
Billie Holiday
Majesty
Krimson
Encore:
Baby
Elephants

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